5.6 1 Corinthians -- Sacramental Unity
While Paul erased the lines that separated Jew and Gentile, and to some extent men and women, he made strict distinctions between believer and pagan. There could be no mixing between idolatry and Christianity. A believer had no business participating in any of the many religious festivals and sacred meals going on continuously in Corinth -- especially eating meat or drink dedicated to Greek gods. The sacrament of Communion, or the Lord's Supper, was a mark of the believer, setting him apart from the pagans, and binding him to Christ and to other believers.
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Cor 10:16-17).
Here, in this ceremony, was a restatement and reenactment of the central truth of Acts 17:26:
And he made from one every nation of men (RSV).
This original unity of humanity has been restored in the New Covenant community by sharing in the blood and body of Christ. In the ordinance of Communion, the reconciliation of man with God and with his fellow man is celebrated and promoted. There is an evangelistic thrust implicit in this sacrament: by participating knowingly in this meal, the believer is affirming that he has forsaken the the world and its divisions and joined himself to the family of God.
Racism in the church has sometimes been manifested in holding a segregated Communion service. This practice is a denial of the heart of the Christian message -- that the blood of Jesus atones for all humanity -- and must be considered blasphemous. Segregated worship signifies the capitulation of that congregation to the the corrupt culture surrounding it -- just as some of the Corinthian believers were apparently participating in the feasts of the Greek shrines. Paul renders the verdict on both practices:
You cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (1 Cor 10:21).
Racism is a part of "the world," and to some extent the Old Covenant. It belongs on the other side of the wall bordering the rule of the New Covenant, the Age of the Spirit. Importing it into the faith community destroys the very foundation of the Kingdom of God.