Nine months or so, I started a series called The Who, The What, The Why and the How. It is about inviting all persons, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, or religion even, to the communion table of the Lord, or rather into relationship with God. It is a three part series and was all written and ready to go. But then I went into labor, gave birth to our daughter (who is nine months old today), and got side tracked along the way. And so, I am here to finish what I started. I hope that the conclusion to this series will not only be intriguing and informative, but that it will inspire us all to remove the things that divide us and that perpetuate injustice, so that all can come to the table of the Lord. Enjoy!
I realize that in saying that love is what is required that I must further explain myself. This is what I term The How and reflect on how we as believers are supposed to love one another as well as others in the way that Jesus did. I am not talking about the emotional, touchy feely type of love that is based more on how one feels at the moment. This emotional type of love is good and it is necessary, but it will not enable us to effectively love others who are unlike us. This emotional type of love will not cause us to invite people to the communion table of the Lord. In the slight chance that it does, it has more to do with whether or not the person conforms and assimilates to our own ideas and expectations of who they should be rather than who God already says they are. Instead, I am speaking of the sacrificial type of love, the type of love that motivates us to act on behalf of those who are despondent and hurting. This is the type of love that Jesus displayed throughout his ministry and Luke 4.18, 19 illustrates this perfectly saying:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Jesus realized that it was going to take more than his preaching to bring people into the kingdom of God. He knew that the people that he would minister to had some serious needs and were need of repair. Without him touching those people with his actions, he knew that they would be lost. In my mind, this is why he spent time with those who were social outcasts such as prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, and sinners. This is why he ministered to and comforted those who were lepers, those who were blind, and those who could not walk. And this is why he ultimately went to the cross, to undo the profound impact of sin on humankind. In this sacrifice, He truly set free all who were held captive and oppressed!
In my opinion, this passage does not just apply to Jesus but it applies to everyone who names his name in that God has also called us to set the oppressed free. Yet what does this look like in our own time and in our own context? Once again, I turn to the Epistles to see what the Apostle Paul has to say in this regard.
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27, 28, NASB).
“Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2.12-16, NASB).
As I examine both of these passages, I see that the blood of Christ has done something really profound. Not only has the shedding of his blood reconciled us to God, but it has also provided a means in which we can be reconciled to one another. No longer is there any distinction between Jew or Palestinian, Black or White, Hutu or Tutsi, slave or free, male or female and even Republican or Democrat. This means that God sees us all equally and responds to us in like manner, so that we should also treat one another in the same light. We do this by constantly tearing the walls of division and we do this by declaring to the world that we will no longer idly stand for the ill treatment of any one people group for the benefit of another.
When we do such, we proclaim that the communion table is an open invitation to all. I believe that Christ himself made such possible so that all would come. It is not His desire that anyone would perish on account of their sins but that all would enter into the abundance of eternal life with him. Yet once again, it bears repeating that the only way people can enjoy eternal life is through the blood of Christ. The blood that He shed must be applied to their hearts so that when the angel of death comes, and for every person this angel does come, they will not be swallowed up by the second death.
With this, I believe that it is also important to look at the totality of our actions and how we respond to people in general. In Ephesians 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul challenges the new believers to be careful of how they walk or how they live now that they are in Christ:
“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity…let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you…be imitators of God…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 4.25-27, 31-5.2, NASB).
We do not often realize how much our actions and words affect other people. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the fact that we do not care how others are affected just as long as our needs and wants are placated. Yet, this passage tells us that such a mindset is not only incorrect but gives the devil an opportunity to steal, kill and destroy our lives as well as the lives of those around us. We need to begin to conform our actions and our thoughts to a higher standard who is Christ. We need to desist from defrauding one another and when we are taken advantage ourselves, we have to let go of bitterness and hatred, and instead forgive. We ultimately need to begin to emulate God himself, becoming a people characterized by nothing less than love.
Next time you come to the communion table, I encourage you to remember these things. As you eat of the bread and drink of the cup, remember that this privilege is not for you and you alone but extends to all who are willing to call upon the name of Jesus and be saved. How might your actions be drawing people into the kingdom of God and of His Son Jesus or how might they be hindering people from coming near? Are you tearing down the calls of racism, classism, and sexism or are you building them up as a result of your own prejudice and misunderstanding of all that Christ has accomplished on your behalf? Are you divisive and bitter? Or are you loving and accepting, urging all to come, to eat, to be transformed, to be saved? As you reflect on these questions, it is my prayer that you, that we will begin to live in such a way that unbelievers are no longer discouraged by the misdeeds of the Church and will begin to come one by one, joining in with us as we together remember that it is because of Christ that we all have an opportunity to eat.