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The book of Proverbs is rich in practical wisdom for everyday life. These general principles are applicable for all ages in all stages of life. One principle we see again and again in Proverbs is the importance of planning and preparing. We prepare for many things each day, don’t we? It becomes an automatic part of our routines to anticipate and plan for the events and responsibilities that we as individuals, families, and communities experience together. As the body of Christ, the church, we would do well to understand the importance of preparing for Lord’s Day worship and specifically as we come to the Lord’s Table. This sacrament that Christ instituted is a means of grace by which His followers are nourished and strengthened in the faith. Coming to the Lord in worship or His sacraments in a nonchalant, cavalier, or unworthy manner is dangerous, and the Bible warns us against it (Lev. 10:1–2; Matt. 23:23–28; 1 Cor. 11:27–30).

Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7, warns His disciples not only about specific sins (as they know those sins from the law of God) but also about what lies beneath the sin—namely, the posture of the heart. Ensuring that our hearts are prepared for worship takes effort, but it is effort that is well worth the time and energy. In Matthew 5:23–24, Jesus says:

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

This teaching from Jesus is important and reminds us that we should be concerned about coming to the corporate assembly of God’s people and the Lord’s Table in a worthy manner. While the specific statement here from Jesus is in the context of an offering being made to the Lord, the thrust of the passage can be applied and understood as clear instruction that members of His body are to be reconciled with each other before worshiping and celebrating the Lord’s Supper together. As each member of the body of Christ partakes of one bread and one cup, we ought to show forth our spiritual unity in visible, tangible ways—through love, respect, honor, care, while seeking to live at peace with one another. Let us not be content with shallow or superficial unity in word only. No, may our unity in Christ be evident by our deeds of love and mercy to one another.

We ought to show forth our spiritual unity in visible, tangible ways—through love, respect, honor, care, while seeking to live at peace with one another.

True love for one another in the church means we strive for peace. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 gives us the impression that the one worshiping was not content with rationalizing away the reality of a strained relationship (as many of us may be tempted to do). Rather, he was adamant and quick to do what he could to reconcile and be at peace with his brother. It may be obvious, but it is worth stating, that Jesus wants us to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters before we bring our sacrifice of praise to the Lord. Our Lord, who knows all things, including the unspoken thoughts of the mind and heart, wants us to be properly postured and prepared for worship. Resolving conflict according to Matthew 18, confronting sins (including finding the log in our own eye), and extending mercy and forgiveness is often difficult and time-consuming. Despite the effort required, it is a most worthy and God-honoring endeavor.

The Westminster Larger Catechism is a helpful tool that summarizes for us what the Bible teaches and breaks down for us how we should prepare ourselves before we receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The first step is examination. We should examine ourselves in terms of our faith in Christ and our union with Him. Am I resting in the finished work of Christ? After that, we should examine our hearts and discern our “sins and wants.” When we examine our hearts, we ought to reflect on our words and actions during the week, think carefully and humbly, discern where repentance is needed, and go to the Lord (as well as the ones we’ve offended). Remember the comforting words of Scripture: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Finally, we are to consider the “truth and measure of . . . [our] love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done [us] wrong” (WLC 171).

Have you ever had a meal with friends or family where there was palpable unresolved tension and conflict among some in the group? Perhaps one person was unwilling to forgive someone and bitterness was taking root. It might have felt as though a dark cloud was hovering over the meal, hindering conversation and fellowship. Likewise, when charity and forgiveness are withheld among members of the church of Jesus Christ, our Lord is displeased and our witness to the watching world is tainted. Since the Lord’s Supper is to be a joyous and reverent celebration of remembering Christ, showing forth His death, and spiritually feeding on Him in the heavenlies, it makes sense that together as one family, we “testify and renew [our] thankfulness, and engagement to God, and [our] mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body” (WLC 168).

Preparing for the Lord’s Supper is an important part of our lives. Each of us has a duty, being a member of this mystical body––the church—to heed what Jesus taught in Matthew 5. The next time we come to the Lord’s Supper, let us thoughtfully and carefully examine our relationships before partaking. If reconciliation is needed, may we seek wisdom from above and remember that “those who plan peace have joy” (Prov. 12:20).

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From the October 2023 Issue
Oct 2023 Issue