Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, Part 1

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk.

1 Corinthians 11:21

After dealing with the issue of appropriate dress in the corporate gathering of Christians in Corinth, Paul turns his attention to problems concerning the Lord's Supper.

At first glance, what Paul describes seems very strange indeed. Some of the believers in Corinth were eating dinner rather than celebrating the Lord's Supper, while others were going hungry. Some were even getting drunk. How was this even possible? It's hard for us to envision how one could make a meal of Communion wafers, or how one could get drunk from tiny cups of wine. What in the world is Paul talking about?

We almost always celebrate the Lord's Supper in the context of a worship service, using small amounts of bread and juice or wine, but in the early church, Communion took place during a typical meal. So, when the Corinthians got together to enjoy food and fellowship, they paused to remember Jesus by sharing in communion.

This explains why some ate dinner. But why did others go hungry? Here we need to understand a bit about first-century culture in Corinth. The households of the wealthier members of Corinthian society included a variety of people (children, relatives, slaves, etc.). When the adults of the main family ate, the slaves and others of low status would not join in. They would eat their own food—much simpler fare—at a later time.

So, when the church in Corinth met in the homes of the wealthy members—for, indeed, there were no dedicated church buildings at that time—the hosts might very well enjoy a meal without including the lower class members of the church, such as the slaves. They did this because it was commonplace. They were simply "doin' what comes natur'lly" (to borrow a line from the musical Annie Get Your Gun). It would be more accurate to say that the Corinthians were doing what comes culturally. They did not intend to dishonor the poorer church members. But their actions had this effect, at least as Paul saw it.

In tomorrow's reflection, I'll offer a couple of contemporary examples that are similar to what was happening in Corinth. For now, I'd encourage you to think of situations you've experienced where Christians inadvertently wronged each other because they were "doin' what comes natur'lly."

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced something like what Paul describes in this passage? What happened? What was the impact on the Christian community? Are there certain behaviors which, for you, are quite normal, but might be unsettling to others?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, when we first read about what was happening in Corinth, it seems bizarre. But the more we understand the context for the behavior of the Corinthian believers, the more we can begin to make sense of what was happening.

And the more we can begin to see how we might behave in a similar manner. No doubt, Lord, there are things we do that feel normal to us even though they might be scandalous and hurtful to others. No doubt there are times when we inadvertently injure others without even realizing it. So we ask you, gracious Lord, to give us wisdom. Help us to see our behavior as others do. Help us to walk in the shoes of our sisters and brothers. Give us clear eyes to see how we might live out the Gospel in our cultural setting. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.