This past weekend I enjoyed visiting my lovely sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The visit included attending Sunday service with them at the historical Anglican church they attend. I appreciated the incredible woodwork, the pipe organ and the beautiful stained glass windows. While a “traditional” Anglican type of service is not really my thing, I did enjoy the messages that were shared as well as the humour of the speakers and the friendly and welcoming attitude of the congregation.
Part of the service was the Eucharist or Holy Communion. I was invited to take part even though I wasn’t a member of that particular congregation or denomination. I appreciated that they made it available to all who are members of the Body of Christ – which, in truth, is The Church of God.
Before a person eats the bread and drinks the wine, which represent the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he/she is asked to take some time to “examine themselves”. It’s like doing a circle check of your car or airplane to make sure all is in good order before using it. In the case of Communion, we are asked to do a “circle check” of our hearts and minds. We need to check if we are in a right relationship with God or is there something hindering, blocking or interfering with that relationship? Have we been participating in sinful behaviour? Have we been holding on to “stinkin’ thinkin'” – thoughts of anger, bitterness, jealousy and unforgiveness? Have we been critical and judgmental?
1Co 11:26 For “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show” the Lord’s death until He shall come.
1Co 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.
While we are very quick to point out the faults of others, we don’t like to take too close a look at ourselves. As a woman, I liken examining our “souls” to those annoying Pap smears, breast exams and mammograms. They’re not pleasant but they are necessary for maintaining a healthy body. They help you to find out if there is a problem, hopefully before it has become a huge problem and one that may be too late to deal with successfully.
Examining our “inner” selves helps us to become aware of any negative spiritual lumps or bumps in our lives that may be interfering with our faith walk and our relationship with God and with others. It then provides the opportunity to seek help in dealing with those negative issues before they become “malignant” problems in our lives.
So before I took part in Holy Communion, I performed a self-examination. As I examined my heart and mind, I realized that I had often allowed thoughts of anger, bitterness and jealousy to occupy my mind in the last year. And I know that I struggle with being critical and judgmental. So I asked God to forgive me – yet again – and to help me become more like Jesus in walking in love. And then I prayed for God to bless my enemies and those who had “despitefully used” me in the past year.
Mat 5:44,45 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven.
Mar 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it so that also your Father in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
As I prayed for forgiveness for myself and for my enemies, I was able to let go of all those negative thoughts and emotions, along with the guilt of having them.
Ask God to help you to examine yourself, then if you don’t like what you find, ask Him for forgiveness, for which He is gracious and merciful to give. That is why Jesus gave up his body and blood for us. Receive and accept that forgiveness and then move forward in the freedom. Then walk in love with your enemies and those who despitefully use you.