1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Family Dysfunction.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this! – 1 Corinthians 11:22 NLT

The church should have been the one place where all the barriers were brought down, where all the dividing lines were erased, and a sense of unity and love was found that was unlike anything else in the secular society. That was Paul’s contention as he wrote this powerful section of his letter to the Corinthians. These are some of the harshest and most critical words he shared with the believers in Corinth. He had received disturbing news regarding some unacceptable behavior taking place when the believers gathered to take the Lord’s Supper. Rather than coming together in unity and love, they were even partaking in the Lord’s Supper selfishly and sinfully. The normal divisions found in secular Greek society had made their way into the church. There were clicks and special interest groups. The rich looked down on the poor. The have-nots refused to associate with those who had nothing. Preferential treatment seemed to be common place. And it was all taking place when they gathered for the Lord’s Supper. This appalled Paul. Here was the church gathering to celebrate the selfless, sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, and they were marring the experience with their selfish, self-centered behavior. Not a one of them, regardless of their social status or net worth, deserved what Christ had done for them. Each of them had been guilty of sin and deserving of death, but Christ had died on their behalf and had made it possible for them to be made right with God. Yet now they were celebrating and commemorating Christ’s death by treating each other with contempt.

In the early days of the Church, it was common for the congregations to gather together for the Lord’s Supper and to include it as part of a “love feast.” This was a communal gathering that was probably a lot like a pot-luck supper. People would bring food and turn the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper into a full-fledged meal. It was a family gathering. But the problem was that some who had plenty of food were refusing to share it with the poor. Others were getting drunk on wine. Rather than a time of unity and love, it had become a time of disunity and division. So Paul reminded them of the words of Jesus on the night of His last Passover meal with the disciples. Jesus spoke of his broken body and shed blood. He foretold of His coming death and sacrifice. And then He commanded the disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper was to be a commemoration and celebration of His death and the salvation it had made possible. It should have been a humbling reminder of Jesus’ sacrificial, selfless death. But instead, it had become an occasion for selfishness, pride, and un-Christlike behavior. So Paul warned them that this behavior would have serious ramifications. Their improper treatment of one another showed a serious disregard for Christ’s death on the cross. They were treating His death with contempt. And for Paul, this was a serious issue. He contented that many of them were physically weak and sick because of their actions. He warned them to take stock of their behavior and to come to the Lord’s table warily and cautiously. Somehow the bread and the cup had been lost in all the feasting. It had become more about eating and drinking than celebrating and commemorating. The Lord’s sacrificial death had become an occasion for selfish, sinful behavior. And Paul warned them that this kind of behavior would lead to judgment. The Lord’s Supper was not to be taken lightly or treated contemptuously. Christ died so that sinful men could be made righteous. He died so that believers could live in unity. His death made possible our salvation and the Church’s creation. His love, expressed in His death for us, is to be a constant reminder of the way in which we should love one another: selflessly, sacrificially, humbly and completely.

Father, You have expressed Your love for us through the giving of Your own Son in our place. And yet, it is so easy for us to refuse to express love to one another because we are so self-focused and consumed by our own selfish interests. If we can keep our eyes focused on the cross and what Jesus did for us there, we should be able to remember that our gratitude to and love for You is best expressed through our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

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