My friend Apostle Jude Hama told me the story of a man who left the church because he felt the church cut him off from participating in the holy communion!
The man said the invitation to receive the holy communion terrified him, so instead of refraining from taking the communion, he decided to abandon the church altogether.
The invitation to the holy communion states in part, “Examine yourself before you eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
That statement comes from Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, “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. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died).”
The man said he felt unworthy to receive the communion, and because he didn’t want to incur divine displeasure and wrath, he left the church.
Leaving the church
Leaving the church or abandoning the faith is not a new phenomenon. The day Jesus told his followers figuratively to “eat his body” and “drink his blood” (John 6:56), many of them left him.
Those who wouldn’t go away were the believers who accepted that Jesus was the Messiah and that he alone had the words of eternal life.
If you care for eternal life, and if you believe it can only be obtained through Christ, abandoning him is unwise and sad indeed. It is like walking away from light and heading for deep darkness.
No matter the difficulties we encounter on our walk with God, we are far better off staying with him than going away from him.
The rich young man, who was described as a fool, sadly walked away from Jesus because the Lord told him to invest in the life of the poor with his wealth and then follow him.
When Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter examined themselves, they felt sinful inside—as we discover when we too examine ourselves. Betraying and denying Jesus revealed their unworthiness.
But while Peter repented and returned to Jesus, Judas abandoned the Lord, went away, and hanged himself. When we walk away from the Lord, we plunge ourselves into destruction.
The call to self-examination is a call in the right direction. If we are honest with ourselves, we will notice from self-introspection that we are weak, wicked, unworthy, and downright sinful.
That is why we thank God that despite our failings, he still loves us and wants us to establish an intimate relationship with him.
In the same passage that urges us to examine ourselves, Paul wrote, “If we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.
“Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:31).
In other words, it is for our own good that we must examine ourselves, discover what is wrong with us, and then seek God’s help in dealing with our shortcoming – not only in preparation for holy communion, but at all times.
It was, thus, a bold request when David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Therefore, before the communion when the minister says, “Examine yourself”, the purpose is not to scare us but to help us prepare to eat with our Lord.
Come to think of it, the whole communion idea checks our Christian life, doesn’t it? If we cannot “eat” and “drink” with our Lord at communion, then how can we fellowship with him?
If we will not take the holy communion because we think we are living in sin and don’t want to repent, how are we making our journey into heaven?
If we don’t feel fit to take the holy communion, how fit are we to sing the Lord’s praises, worship him, approach his Word, and talk to him in prayer?
If the sin we are living in were visible like the pilgrim’s heavy load upon our backs, and if the sin had an unbearably bad odour, how could we live in it and carry it about?
If our Christian life, relationship with Christ, and entering the Kingdom of God is important to us, then we must deal with the reasons why we cannot receive the holy communion.
Next week: The good Lord willing, we should return to this topic next week and explore other deeper thoughts about the holy communion and its immense benefits.