One of the most misunderstood Christian practices is the participation in the communion. Who takes it? Who shouldn’t? And what does it mean to do so in an “unworthy” manner?
The communion portion of the service is not a time of learning and equipping, but rather it is an exclusive focus on Jesus Christ and a prayerful expression of the Christian’s gratitude for her or his salvation. This is not a time to ask for “stuff” but to remember the sacrifice the Messiah undertook.
Who Can Take Communion?
If you are a baptized disciple, you are eligible to take communion. (1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) The Lord’s Supper provides each member of the congregation with an opportunity to remember Christ and respond to the message of the cross.
What Does it Mean to Take Communion “in an Unworthy Manner?”
While Christians are allowed to participate in the communion, 1 Corinthians 11: 27-30 warns that disciples must examine themselves so that they do not take the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner.” What does this mean? Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut explanation or list of situations in which it is wrong to take communion.
One interpretation suggests that “unworthy” refers to a careless attitude (from the Greek word “anaxios”). This might be the case when a Christian lives a double-life that includes willful disobedience (sin) that is un-confessed. Another interpretation suggests that a Christian who is in an unresolved conflict with another disciple should not take the Lord’s Supper until she or he has actively pursued reconciliation.
Yet there is a caveat. In truth, no disciple is worthy to take communion. What Paul is referring to is the manner with which one participates in the Lord’s Supper not one’s judgment of personal merit. It is easy to mistake the two. Remember that sin you are fighting or dealing with is part of your makeup while in this earthly body.
When in Doubt…
Communion signifies the Christian’s fellowship with the Messiah and her or his unity with the church family. If you believe that your heart has hardened to the message of the cross or you know that there is hidden sin that you have been cultivating rather than fighting, wait with taking communion until you had a chance to talk to your discipleship partner.