This is a really awkward chapter. Paul moves from discussing Israel, a good response to idol worship, and a lifestyle of glorifying God to a discussion of head coverings and the relationship of men and women. But the cool thing is that “all Scripture is profitable for…teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and God can teach through the difficult lessons that are abrasive to us and our culture.
1 Corinthians 11 opens with a discussion of the authority relationship between men and women. Since the beginning of time, when Eve grabbed for power, there has been a struggle in even the closest relationships. This conversation on how that relationship is shown through outward appearance is very relevant in the American culture of conflicting hierarchies of authority. God has given men the role of acting like Jesus, and women the image of the Church as Christ’s bride. The struggle is how we show that in our culture that does not use head coverings. How believers submit to one another and promote harmony rather than chaos is a reflection of God’s work in the world.
After all, God has the ultimate authority over everyone.
“11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman [j]independent of man, nor is man [k]independent of woman. 12 For as the woman [l]originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things [m]originate from God.”
Paul moves from the frying pan to the fire and calls the Corinth church out for their method of doing the Lord’s Supper. Some were feasting while others had no food. The meal was a time of division and a contrast between the rich and poor, rather than a time of fellowship. Interestingly enough, Paul acknowledges that divisions are part of a normal church,
“19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become [r]evident among you.”
But these divisions show that there is an obvious right, and an obvious wrong!
Paul’s passage on the Lord’s Supper is beautiful. He even received his instruction from Jesus rather than just another person’s account! That night Jesus was betrayed, where all the friends He had on earth ran away, where evil jumped on Him, He wanted to create a physical event that reminded people how much He was willing to sacrifice for them. His body, His blood, in such simple foods. A meal, fellowship, nourishment, the history of all of Israel being delivered from slavery, and now the world freed.
This is not something to take lightly, you might as well take responsibility for killing Jesus. God will judge our responses. How do I respond to Communion? It is a time for rejoicing that Jesus will return, as well as a time to reorient towards Him as the authority of my life.
The Corinthian church had some problems in how they were creating unnecessary divisions and flaunting their differences. How often do I promote competition rather than coordination? How often does my pride get in the way and I reject something because it makes me feel smaller? This chapter is irritating, but it illuminates areas that must be addressed in our prideful communities.
God, please help me to submit to the authorities over me, and promote unity. Thank You for a tangible way of remembering what You have done, and how we can look forward together to Your return. You are so good, thank You for correcting us and loving us! Amen.