Tuesday Re-mix –
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. I Corinthians 11:17-18
I once worked with a certain church in East Texas who had more than its share of divisions and unmanageable conflict. There had been an ugly history of conflict in this church…dissension about a number of different issues over the years. By the time I had gotten there, the pastor had become the “issue du jour” and was the object of much of the fighting. Two camps had already formed: those who wanted to keep him and those who did not. This was the church where I actually had a deacon sit with me, look me right in the eye and say, “I don’t care what the Bible says about reconciliation, I’m not doing it…I’ll deal with whatever consequences that brings in Heaven.” I didn’t even know what to say to him. I mostly just bit my tongue, but that conversation is perhaps for another post.
It was this church’s custom to have the Lord’s Supper (or “communion”, depending upon which parlance you favor) on the last Sunday of each month. The pastor found himself in a dilemma. He had to decide whether or not to move forward with communion or not. If he decided to move forward, he would surely be criticized for holding communion when everyone in the church was fighting with each other. If he canceled it, he would surely be criticized for that as well.
He canceled it. And it was a right decision. Because there was so much contention and animosity in that congregation at the time, to come together for communion would have been a two-faced lie before God.
Sometimes, when our conflict gets out of control in a church and our hearts are no longer turned toward Christ in one another, to gather together for worship or communion or under any other similar pretense of unity is just wrong. This, I believe, was Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church, whose divisions had become big news. How can we come to worship, saying to God, “You are worthy” when we have intentionally turned our back on Christ in our brother? How can we take communion under the pretense of “community” when we are seriously divided? To do so would actually do more harm than good.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23. Do you see that, if you have a broken relationship with a brother/sister in Christ, God wants that fixed before you come to worship?
Is it any wonder that there is such a mass exodus from the church today? It is hypocrisy at its worst that we should gather together in the name of Christ and yet permit our relationships to stay broken indefinitely. Paul’s words to the Corinthian church were harsh, and I suspect his words to us would be equally harsh.
Let’s get it together, folks. We can get this right, can’t we?