“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
In this latter verse, Paul is primarily exhorting the Corinthians to act like they really are members of the same body. He has previously told them not to say they don’t need one another. The eye needs the foot, and the hand needs the eye. But if we really are members of one body and Christ’s blood runs through all of us, then whether we want to or not, it is simply a fact that we do effect one another. We may not feel that we are that closely related to one another, but Paul says that as we gather at this meal week by week, we are communing together in the body and blood of Christ. Just as nutrients flow through the blood throughout the body, so toxins and viruses can travel through the blood and infect the body. This means that suffering for one another may not only be something we consciously choose to do; rather, it may also be the result of being bound together as one body here at this table. In other words, a particular hardship or difficulty in your life may be in part suffering for and with someone else in the body. Of course this also implies a warning about unconfessed sin. It is not possible to isolate a cancer or a virus in one part of the body. When you partake of this bread and cup, you are sharing your life with your neighbors. Sometimes people object to the idea of a common loaf or a common cup in communion because of all the germs that might be shared and spread. But Paul teaches here that there is an even more significant sharing going on. We are being knit together, grafted together into one body, and this means that we share blood. This means that we suffer with and for one another whether or not we realize it, and as members of the body are honored, God bestows great joy whether or not we realize the connection. But this might be terrifying. The thought that I might be infected by your sin or suffering, or that my pain and suffering might be passed on to you is scary. But this really shouldn’t be scary or terrifying because this is the blood of Christ, the blood of cleansing. But this is the blood of the new covenant for the remission of sins. This is the blood of Jesus. This means that we are united, bound together by the Spirit, and we do share in one another’s suffering. But as we partake in faith, as we look to Jesus for our full forgiveness, we can confidently pass the bread and the wine to one another, trusting the goodness of God and the wisdom of the Spirit and the healing power of the blood of Jesus to knit us together in perfect holiness and love, granting us grace to be grace for and to one another, until we come to the Perfect Man, until this world is full of that grace. So come with thankful hearts.