It’s taken me four decades to understand this passage in Corinthians in reference to a communion service of believers. But it was walked out in my life in a dramatic manner.
1 Cor 11:27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Sleep means to die in verse 30. To understand what this means, let’s examine what it does not say. It does not say to fail to discern a Christian, or a friend, or a believer, or a baptized person or the devil himself. It says failure to discern, not the Lord Himself, but His Body.
And who is His body? That’s us. But more importantly the “us” is not just Harold, Jenny and Roy, but to recognize the part of Christ’s body where Harold, Jenny and Roy function.
People totally outside the church of Jesus certainly know them in their stores, social groups and offices. But this situation is unique; that is when we as believers take on the garment of being “Christ to the world.”
About 40 years ago my husband walked in the house at supper and said, “The Lord told me that you are a liver in the body of Christ.” I smiled because Jesus had already shown me that. And in case you’re interested the liver is hidden and it does something no one like to see – filter out all the junk that goes through the body. In fact, this little blog has spent three years filtering out false teaching and corrupted understanding in Christian circles.
The liver is corrective. Livers do not add Christians to the Body of Christ; they don’t sing, they don’t run the front office; they just react what is passing through. As you can tell, I am not necessarily a popular figure. “Oh dear – here comes the liver. What kind of crap have I swallowed now!” they worry.
But enough of my complaints. Let’s look at this in a practical manner. To bring up sickness and possible death for some believer-behavior, esp. in the New Testament is quite rare. We must pay attention.
Consider what bodies have: Bones to hold a shape. Bones in scripture are symbols of priests, not Catholic ones, just people who lead and make the body upright. Then there is skin which symbolizes faith. Faith completely surrounds a body because it needs to believe for past, present, future, what is below the feet and above the head.
The lungs take in the word of God. My pal Jack reminded me that God only breathes out, never in. That is our breath too. Breath symbolizes Holy Spirit bringing in required oxygen which allows the body to exercise all its internal and external functions. That air is the immediate word of God, the ruach (Hebrew).
Human beings require air; spiritual man requires God’s present word to survive. We need a mouth, which symbolizes a prophet, eyes which symbolize seers (people who see) and ears symbolizing a group who hear the Lord. Hands and feet bring the gospel; they serve as mercy ministers and take the Body where Holy Spirit wants it to go.
The gall bladder removes bitterness, the kidney filters out water impurities, and the thyroid regulates the body. Have you ever been in a church or Bible study/prayer group where one person takes over? That is an unregulated group. That is a body that has failed to recognize the other parts of Christ’s body. And that is what can lead to sickness and even death.
Six years ago a church leader banished me from the meetings as a false teacher. I’d never been confronted this way. (Most people just avoid me if they have an issue.) A year later she ended up in the hospital three times with strokes. NO – I had not prayed against her.
I was just as surprised as you are. She had failed to recognize a part of His Body. Then later on a man who assumed some spiritual leadership in this same group, heaped contempt on me; I was astonished. Same deal – he did not recognize my place in the Body. After 9 months he was gone! The group rebuked him.
Then some other spiritual leaders started rebuking me for being “unforgiving.” They too had failed to see what was going on. As a 40 year veteran of the mission field, I’d never had any trouble seeing who was whom in a group. It’s part of the job.
God is just as interested in Fiji Islanders as he is Texans, and He is quite able to call and fit them into a Christian body in their home town. But friends in the American church had no experience with diverse people, ministries or God’s calls on individuals. I feel as though I have made a giant leap forward in understanding what God wants for the future of His People.
Clearly Church, we need to start making this part of the New Testament real. Jesus is not coming back for an unruly mob, a quarreling faction or a self-righteous bunch of over-educated, self-absorbed believers. He is coming for a team that knows, like a body, how to work together. That is our future.