While serving in the youth ministry at my local church, I remember that we were taking holy communion one day, and I noticed that many in the youth tent stayed seated and did not partake. They were all sitting around and looking around, seeing who was getting up and who was staying seated. Being a young youth pastor at the time, I was not sure how to handle the situation. I asked some more experienced people in the youth ministry if it was common to see most of the young people in the youth tent remain seated during our monthly holy communion time. They said it was common. I talked with one of the youths who was a friend of mine, and I asked him why many of our young people didn’t take communion. He said that a lot of them did not feel worthy. They did not think that they were good enough to take communion. They also really feared offending God and coming under a curse (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
A couple of youth from the church lived double lives in that they were going to clubs in downtown Nairobi on Friday and Saturday and coming to church hungover on Sunday. Some dressed inappropriately, and some of bragged about sleeping with girls. We knew who they were as a youth ministry leadership team, and confronted them in love, but still welcomed them despite their unrepentant hearts. We understood those guys not taking communion because they were not repentant at all. However, others were not going to clubs and were seeking after Jesus, but they still did not take communion. We found out that they felt that they had to be “super spiri” to take communion. They were living in fear of falling under a curse from God or offending him.
After realizing that many were feeling unworthy and fearful, we began to change our tactics. We still read the traditional holy communion passages in 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 and of course we would come to the judgment section of the passage (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). Still, we then began to emphasize the command of Jesus to “…DO THIS in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:24).” We noted that it was a command of Jesus’ to take communion to remember what he has done for us. To not take communion is a form of disobedience.
What is Communion?
It might be wise for me to pause for a moment and explain what communion is all about and further explain why it is essential to take that bread and wine to remember Jesus. The bread that Paul tells the Corinthians to take represents the body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24, Matthew 26:26). The body of Jesus was pierced, crushed, nailed on, and used as a way to have the wrath of God satisfied for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6, 1 Peter 2:24, Colossians 2:13-14, Romans 5:8-9). Apart from Jesus sacrificing his own life for us on the cross, we would have no other way to enter heaven (Acts 4:12, John 14:6).
The cup, which was a cup of wine, represented the blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-29, 1 Corinthians 11:25). What is the new covenant you may be wondering? What does it have to do with my life? The new covenant is something that God talked about in the Old Testament. It was something exciting. Prophets and Old Testament saints longed to see this new covenant happen, but they never got to see it. We, in the New Testament times, get to experience it. The new covenant is God transforming the hearts of His new covenant community, forgiving their sin (Jr 31:31–34), and giving them the Spirit (Ezk 36:25–27). All of this happened because of Jesus giving his body and his blood. There is no other way for us to get to heaven and walk obediently before the Lord apart from the shed blood of Jesus.
Communion is Remembering
A memory is recalled better in our brain whenever we involve all five of our senses in remembering it. Communion involves all five of our senses because we taste the bread and juice (wine), smell the bread, hear our selves chew and swallow, we feel the bread and the cup, and we also see it with our eyes. Recalling what Jesus has done for us helps strengthen us in our faith. We remember that Jesus’ body was beaten severely on the cross for us to have peace with God. It also reminds us that his blood forgives and helps us walk in obedience. It is such a powerful thing that Jesus did all of this for us. Communion then should be a time to cause us to thank the Lord for what he has done. It is to help us remember the suffering Jesus had to go through to cleanse us of our sins (1 Peter 3:18). If that is what communion is then why would you not want to remember it?
Further, it says in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that whenever take the Lord’s supper we proclaim his death until he comes. In other words, it is a way of worshipping him and proclaiming him as enough and sufficient for your salvation. It is also looking forward to his return. It helps us remember that our risen Lord will come back to get us one day (Hebrews 9:28). It is with joy that we take communion to remember that Christ is coming back to take us to heaven. Since this is the case, why would you not take communion?
Not taking the communion because you are in fear of the Lord’s judgment is not a good, noble, or wise thing. Taking communion is worshipping God for his body and his shed blood. It remembers all of those powerful things done on your behalf. It is also proclaiming his death and return one day. Not taking communion even though Jesus commanded us to “Do this in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:24)” is disobedience and communicating that you don’t want to remember what he has done for you. It is demonstrating that you don’t want to proclaim his death or desire him to return. Many of us don’t consciously think such things, but not taking communion suggest that.
The Bible says not to take communion in an unworthy manner and to examine yourself before taking it (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). Do that before you take communion and then believe that the blood and body of Jesus is sufficient to make your righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Believe that Jesus died to take a curse for you and not try to trap you into being cursed (Galatians 3:13, 1 Corinthians 11:27-30). After communicating these things to our youth on the following holy communion Sunday, lots of them started taking communion and treasuring Christ more. Take communion next time it is available through repentance, praise, and faith that Christ’ sacrifice is enough.