I was in a church service recently where the pastor announced that they practice “Open Communion,” and then explained “If you have accepted Christ as your savior, you are welcome to join us at the communion table, regardless of what church or denomination you may belong to.” This particular church is a warm and welcoming group, and the pastor’s open invitation sincere.
There is only one body of Christ in the world, and it’s good to recognize that our doctrinal differences need not preclude sharing the bread and the cup together. As a Christian, I like Open Communion, but I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone unfamiliar with church, who didn’t know what communion was about, or perhaps a Christian whose church jargon did not include the expression “accept Christ.”
For them, this pastor announced Closed Communion; it was only offered to those who had previously responded to Jesus Christ in a particular way, and some may have no idea what that way is.
Do we see communion as a ritual reserved for insiders? Are we cautious because of Paul’s warnings to Christians who were partaking as selfish gluttons, heedless of others? Was Jesus selective when he offered his flesh and blood? Could an unbeliever actually receive Christ in a tangible act of eating and drinking?
What if we practiced truly Open Communion? What if we recklessly offered “Come! Whoever is thirsty, come! If you want the water of life, come and take it. It’s free!”