By Randy Gariss
The Lord’s Supper is about celebration. After all, the meal points to the love of Christ, forgiveness of sins, the coming of the kingdom, and other wonderful repercussions of the cross.
Yet, in the midst of the joy there is another imperative from Paul, one with more sobering overtones. We are each told to “examine” ourselves.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
What does it mean to examine myself? Examine myself in light of what? Am I to examine myself in light of my sins this week, in light of my attitude at the moment, in light of what? I suspect the focus of Communion varies so greatly among us because we each answer that question so differently. But what does Paul have in mind? Perhaps we would better know how to examine ourselves if we looked at the context of the command.
There is a clear and unmistakable theme to the 1 Corinthians letter. It is the theme of others. In chapter 8, I am told not to eat or drink or make any decision without considering the impact of my decision on the conscience of others.
In chapter 9, I am reminded my rights are to be surrendered, if in doing so I can better love others. In the 10th chapter, God points out that I am part of the whole, and therefore I am never to seek my own good but the good of others.
In chapters 11 and 14, there are severe rebukes for those who want to worship God, but are inconsiderate of the others in the body. In the 12th chapter, I am told spiritual gifts are not for me, but are for the good of others. In the 13th chapter, the love of others is elevated above every other virtue.
There is no great mystery about this examination at Communion. I am to consider how Christ has loved me and placed me in his family, a family that has made you to be a brother or sister to me. It is in the light of our unity and love I am to examine myself.
As I take this Communion, I must ask a haunting question: “Am I being Christlike to you in both my attitude and my actions?”
Communion is not a solitary meeting with God in a private cubicle. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a group activity. It’s in the midst of your lives, with your faces on my mind, in the midst of the grace that God has given us—it is there, I am to examine myself.
Randy Gariss serves as the director of the Life and Ministry Center at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.