Ironically, the Lord’s Table can often be an area in which there is much discord and discontentment, as I’ve written about before. At my own church, we’ve recently switched to having gluten-free bread/wafers for everyone, all the time. Unfortunately (unfortunate for a number of reasons), in our day, this is something we have to think about and be aware of. And, while I would prefer it wasn’t made a big deal of, it is something churches should acknowledge as they make that kind of change in a more intentional manner.
Here’s my basic argument: it doesn’t hinder anyone for the church to use gluten-free communion bread; to use bread with gluten will hinder a segment of the congregation—whether rightly or wrongly—from partaking in the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation; it’s incredibly simple now to change to gluten-free bread; why would we not jump at the opportunity to remove an unnecessary obstacle to unhindered participation?
There are two possible answers: 1) people are selfish; and 2) the bread Jesus used wasn’t gluten-free. Well, to make argument #2, you better be ready to switch back from grape juice to wine—which I’m happy to do, as I think we ought to stay as close to the original elements as possible—just be consistent.
Below are some of the thoughts I shared with our congregation when we made the change.
What we want to avoid is giving any believer any reason to refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper (beyond the restrictions of Scripture: unrepentant sin). This is a meal celebrating the fellowship we have with Christ, and thus with one another; and it’s meant to be taken together, because we are united in Christ. Because of this, we want to make sure there’s no reason for someone who refrains from eating gluten (for any reason)—whether of our own congregation or those visiting—to refrain from partaking of the elements.
Many churches have attempted to address the issue by having a gluten-free option, so that most people will take regular communion bread, and over there is the gluten-free option. But what that does is effectively divide the body into gluten-eating, and gluten-free people—turning a comparatively inconsequential matter into a matter of table-fellowship. This tends to lead toward either self-pity or pride on the part of the gluten-free folks, and either disdain or bitterness on the part of those eating the regular bread. It also defeats the very symbolism of the Lord’s Supper when we make this dietary issue a matter of identity, instead of celebrating our fellowship and communion with one another because of our identity in Christ.
Division in the body is precisely the opposite of what the Lord’s Supper is all about. So we make this adjustment as a wonderful opportunity to show our love for our brothers and sisters, and to seek to maintain that visible unity in partaking of the Lord’s Supper together as one body. This can easily become an area of contention, but we must seek to outdo one another in showing honor and deference to the needs and preferences of others. If the Scriptures’ instruction on grace has taken root at all, we will be eager to remove any obstacle possible in the communion meal so as to show our love for and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Communion is a time of celebration, remembrance, and thanksgiving for the salvation God provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a meal of fellowship for Christians to enjoy together. As such, this is only for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It also means that if we are out of fellowship, with another believer, or just in our relationship to God, we need to make that right before we partake of communion as well. 1 John 1:9 says, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So we examine ourselves, as to whether we have any unconfessed sin in our life that is hindering our relationship with God, or with our fellow believers, and we confess that to the Lord, so that we are prepared to partake of the bread and the cup together—as one body in Christ.
“Because there is one bread, we who are many are on body, for we all partake of the one bread.” — 1 Corinthians 10:17
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