There are a number of them . . . commands we refer to as the “one anothers.” Love one another . . . forgive one another . . . admonish one another . . . encourage one another . . . stir up one another . . . pray for one another . . . serve one another . . . and the list goes on. I encountered another “one another” this morning. I’m going to suggest it’s among the lesser known “one anothers” . . . wait for one another.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another–if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. (1Corinthians 11:33-34a ESV)
Context? The crazy mixed up world of the church in Corinth. “Those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1:2) . . . those who “were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge . . . not lacking in any gift” (1:5-7). But those who had more than a few issues. Divisions in the church . . . misapplied grace to open and determined sin . . . lawsuits filed among themselves . . . confusion about eating food sacrificed to idols and dabbling with idolatry. And, as I read this morning, even issues arising from when they came together.
Four times in this latter portion of 1Corinthians 11 I encountered the phrase, “when you come together.” That the understood practice of believers at the dawn of Christianity was to come together seems evident. That’s what the church does . . . the ekklesia, the called out people . . . the assembly . . . they assemble. And these brothers and sisters, when they came together as the church, it was “not for the better, but for the worse” (11:17-18).
Ouch! The Lord’s people . . . come together in the Lord’s way . . . to participate in the Lord’s table (11:20) . . . and it’s for the worse.
You get the sense it was a bit chaotic. You sense they came together only because they knew they should come together . . . and not to gather in a way that honored the Head of the church. Their coming together only gave occasion for the divisions among them to be manifest. At the love feast, which preceded the taking of the elements, each went about eating their own meal with no thought of each other. They loved to feast . . . but did not feast in love. One stuffed their face with all the food they brought, while another went hungry. Some got drunk on the abundance they had . . . others were humiliated as they arrived with nothing. Can any one say, “Gong show!?!”
They had come together, as they should, to proclaim the Lord’s death . . . to remember the body given for them . . . to recall the blood shed for them . . . but they did so in an unworthy manner. So much so, that the Lord’s hand of the discipline was on them . . . “that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (11:27-30). Sobering stuff.
It’s not enough that the church go through the motions . . . we need to wait for one another. Literally, we are to “look for” one another, to “expect” one another. The original word being built off a root which indicates “taking another’s hand.”
I think it’s at least part of what Paul refers to when he says that they should be “discerning the body” when they take the bread and the cup. Beyond distinguishing the Lord’s Supper from their love feast . . . in addition to separating the food they brought from the sacraments they received . . . Paul wanted God’s people to recognize that, in their gathering, they were to come together as the Body of Christ for the purposes of lifting up their exalted Head. And, as such, they were to wait for one another.
Oh, that we might, as God’s called out ones, come together for the better and not for the worse. That, as we wait for one another, we would love on another, so that all people will know we are His disciples (John 13:35).
By His grace . . . for His glory . . .