Most of us are familiar with Paul’s warning about eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner. Unworthy eaters “will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). So a person should “examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (verse 28).
Some Christians with sinful attitudes towards another person, let’s say toward their spouse, do not eat or drink at the communion table. Something isn’t right there, so something isn’t right here. Their marriage affects their worship.
It goes the other way, too, doesn’t it? If something isn’t right here, something won’t be right there. Worship affects relationships, including marriage. It is unlikely that a man will be faithful, engaged, eager to commune with God week by week and then be a hermit at home, at least he won’t be that way forever. It is unlikely that a woman will be humble, teachable, eager to commune with God and then be a spoiled, cold brat at home. If either, or both, are half-hearted, motion-goers here, their marriage investment probably won’t amount to much either.
Which is worse, disunity before or after worship? Which is unworthy, fussing with your spouse before taking communion or after taking communion? Paul warns about unworthy partaking not so that we will get our hearts right for this Table and then relax. The point isn’t to survive a communion table gauntlet only to be a pain in the butt at the lunch table. The point is having our hearts right for whatever table we’re sitting around. The communion table reminds us of Christ’s work that makes wrong hearts right and ready for communion wherever.
Before we eat and drink, let us examine ourselves. And after we eat and drink by grace, let us examine ourselves to see if we are guilty of profaning the image of God by our unworthy attitudes toward one another.
I’ve heard it described before that marriage is like a triangle with God at the summit. As the husband and wife get closer to God they necessarily get closer to each other. I like the illustration well enough. It is true that the man and the woman have their own, personal relationship to God, a relationship that in many cases existed before the wedding and one that can provide support during marriage.
But most of the Christians I fellowship with on a regular basis do not usually struggle to remember or attend to our individual access to God. “I have a relationship with Jesus Christ regardless of what happens around me.” That is true, and there is a proper way to emphasize that. It becomes a problem, though, when we value our individual access to God in such a way as to consider our spouse (or children) as an obstacle between us and God. We come to think of our husband or wife as a hurdle to get over, and then even as a hurdle to leave behind on our way to God.
There is a sense in which every man by himself and every woman by herself bears the image of God. But a married couple bear God’s image together. So your spouse—even your sinning, selfish, stand-offish, criticizing, fussy spouse—is less of a hindrance to Your fellowship with God and more of a reason for it. Christian couples should think correctly about their connection. In other words, it is not a time to congratulate yourself when you’ve inched closer to God on your side of the triangle but your spouse stays further back.
Husbands, if your wife is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in your loving sacrifice that, by grace, will win/woo your wife to come along. Likewise, wives, if your husband is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in joyful respect that will, by grace, push your husband further. Individual Christian growth that does not look to unite, even if that unity doesn’t happen overnight, is not growth in godlikeness. God unites us to Himself, He doesn’t just celebrate that He is better than us.
I value the Why? question. I think I’ve mostly lost the smart-alecky junior high attitude underneath the asking, but I still appreciate and utilize the interrogative shovel to dig for idealogical treasure.
The reason why God created the universe and the reason why God created marriage between one man and one woman and the reason why Christ came and died and rose again and the reason why we make disciples and the reason why every disciple belongs to the Church is the same reason. If we said that the reason is “for His glory,” we’d be correct but perhaps still clouded behind the Christian jargon. So again, why creation, marriage, salvation, and church?
It’s because the three Persons of God so loved one another and enjoyed their union together that He made other beings to know and enjoy that glory. The understanding and affection and joy between the Father, Son, and the Spirit is part of His magnificence. It’s what makes Him awesome. His incommunicable attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence and eternality are at work for spilling His communicable glory into us.
Therefore, the reason why God made the world, instituted family, forgives rebels, and knits His people together in one Body is so that we will have understanding and affection and joy with Him and between ourselves like Him.
We glorify God when we see His glory truly, when we say it accurately, and when we sing it wholeheartedly. We also glory God when we receive His gifts thankfully and then imitate Him through loving generosity/sacrifice for the joy of others and in order to increase fellowship between us. We glorify God vertically and horizontally, through praise and through practice, through communion with Him through Christ and communion with each other by the Spirit.
What did God want with us and for us? He wanted us to taste His love and joy in union with Him as well as in our relationships here, especially in family, both by blood and by Christ’s blood. Why? Because it’s truly glorious.