Communion, from an Honor-Shame Perspective
God is the “King of Glory.” God does not have honor. He is honor. Glory radiates from his very being. He is the One who bestows and grants honor upon us. God is the only source of honor.
David says, “My salvation and honor depend upon God” (Ps 62:7). Psalm 75 says, “It is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” God alone ascribes status.
Our only hope for honor is from Jesus Christ—the Eucharist declares this subversive and radical fact. In taking the bread and cup, we say to each other and to the world, “My core identity and status does not depend upon gender, race, family, ethnicity, or any other cultural reckoning.” At the cross, all that is nullified. There is zero place for boasting or claiming status.
But the Corinthian church failed to understand that. Their pursuit of status distinction caused divisions and demeaned others. They claimed status based on oratory skills, benefactions, giftings, wealth and more. Their twisted pursuit of world honor destroyed community and nullified the cross of Jesus. And Paul tells them they are missing the entire point of the Lord’s Supper:
“When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; …When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.” (1 Cor 11:21)
In the Corinthian church, richer Christians were not breaking bread with lower-class folks. Paul tells them, “You show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” (1 Cor 11: 22). Their behavior was dishonoring. This runs counter to the very work of God in the Church. So Paul declares:
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member.” (1 Cor 12:21–24).
The bread and wine declare the supremacy and ultimacy of God’s honor. We cast aside our false notions of worth and cling to the glory conferred by God. This enables unity in the Church (John 17:22). Communion is the most tangible expression of that unity. Communion—a tangible expression of our allegiance to a crucified (yet risen) person—counteracts all false boasting with Gods’ sovereign, shame-erasing grace. Paul explains this radical subversion of status:
[In his son Jesus and in us] God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, … in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:27–31)
In sharing the bread and cup of Jesus, we publicly declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ, and his cruciform redefinition of power, status, and victory. Communion is our boast in a humiliated savior.