What do ammunition specialist Carrie French, pastor Jerry Falwell, Apple founder Steve Jobs, and heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio have in common? Each had their funeral picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church. The group cites God’s judgment on Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals as the justification for their activities.
We expect a certain sense of propriety and decorum at events like funerals and places like cemeteries, which is why the pickets and protests are so inflammatory. That feeling of shock at such inappropriate behavior can help us grasp how the apostle Paul felt when he heard what was happening in Corinth during the Lord’s Supper.
Though they were calling it the Lord’s Supper, the various factions of the church were having their own private suppers (v. 21). They were not acknowledging the point of breaking bread, which was a recognition that every member of the church is connected to the same loaf. Additionally, some in the church who lacked material resources were actually going hungry during this supposed Lord’s Supper. It had turned into a competition to see who could bring the most lavish spread, ignoring the needy in the church.
Paul repeated the description and command regarding the observance of the Lord’s Supper and then reminded the Corinthians that they were to eat in a worthy manner. What does this mean? It doesn’t mean that we have to be sinless before we can partake, nor does it mean that we have to mentally or emotionally beat ourselves up over our sin. Instead, it means that we participate in the Lord’s Supper by "discerning the body of Christ" (v. 29). When we recognize the real reason we’re there, we turn the focus on Jesus.
Apply the Word
Do we go through the motions of worship in order to impress other people? Or do we worship with our attention directed toward God? Do we focus on ourselves—either our successes or our sins—and forget to turn our gaze on Jesus? The Lord’s Supper is intended to help us lift our eyes to the Bread of Life who has invited us to participate in His body.