bread and wine
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
Years ago my wife and I attended a wedding of Catholic friends of ours. We were cautioned ahead of time by our friend that communion would be offered only to Catholics, she wanted to make sure we knew that ahead of time and would not be offended. So we remained seated in our pew with a number of other a-Catholics during communion. I remember feeling a bit put off, not by our friends choice to be Catholic but by a church that would practice exclusivity to the degree that we as True Believing Christians would not be able to join them in communion.
We didn’t practice communion that way at our old evangelical church. Well not until a few years ago anyway. At some point the invitation to communion was changed to include a phrase to the effect of, “As this communion meal is for those who believe in Jesus Christ and have given their lives to him, we ask that those who do not share our faith refrain from partaking…” Or something like that. I didn’t like when that change was made, always felt uncomfortable thinking of how it would make people feel, and didn’t like the division it communicated. Did God need to have his holiness defended that way? Would we be in danger of giving false assurance to those not saved? I’m sure there were reasons, at that point I was not engaged in a way to try to learn what they were or to try to resolve them.
I was reminded of all this when we were at the service last night of the new evangelical church we have been visiting. I had taken communion there previously once, the invitation was about shared community and I felt OK about that. But last night the invitation specifically excluded those who did not “believe in Jesus as Lord.” So I stayed in my seat. I didn’t really mind, to be honest it protected me from struggling with hypocrisy, after all, why would I partake in communion if that is not what I believed?
It was harder for my wife than for me, highlighting again that I don’t believe all the same things I used to. And I was made more aware of the church as a social institution that is not only about joining in a certain set of beliefs but also about enforcing them. And the rules at the heart of evangelical Christianity speak of exclusivity by design, and a message of bringing people into that exclusivity, not opening the doors to join with others inclusively. That’s fine with me, I don’t need to be making the rules. But it leaves me wanting to say, “That’s fine, I know where I’m not wanted.”