One of the bits of advice I got during marital counseling and also via websites and gurus of relationships and marriage, was the importance of sex to the strengthening of the marital bond. And the standard advice at the end of the day was couched one way or the other in this form – each marriage is different, but so far as is possible for the couple, they should have sex regularly, probably a number of times each week.

Now of course that was brilliant news for a couple pining away to be with each other, and when the marriage was finally entered into, we certainly did our best to have as much of it as we can, leading to two children as we speak (the most recent one giving us red and tired eyes from sleeplessness). But it’s become obvious to me the value of that advice – sex between a married couple is indeed a reminder of their bonds with one another i.e. it is a covenant reminder. No matter how couples fight, if they still agree to have sex, it means there is still hope for the union.

And so my recent ruminations on the relationship between the Great Commandment and Communion has lead me to wonder why we are not applying the same “wisdom” to communion. Think about it. In my previous post, I came to the conclusion that the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Mt 22:37-38 NIV)is a covenant reminder. Hence it is not surprising that Yahweh instructs the Israelites to find ways to daily remind themselves of that covenant via all sorts of ingenious means (writing them on door frames, as symbols on hands, talking about them daily etc). If that is the case, then I have a few questions for Christians to ponder on this subject.

My Questions

  1. Why have most Protestant churches (including those I identify with i.e. historically Anabaptist) so regimented Communion to a once-a-month affair? I know most of the excuses, but I sincerely don’t buy it because the Roman Catholics are able to do it every Sunday, so if we wanted to, we could. If communion is a covenant reminder like in marriage, would our marriage counselors be satisfied to hear that we (the church community) only “have sex” with our husband once a month? Why can’t we do this more often?

  2. Why have we (most Protestants) made communion into an exercise in reflection on personal piety, when it’s primarily a reminder of our relationship with God and with one another? Somehow we’ve ignored the real point that Paul was addressing with his instructions to the Corinthian church (the issue of disunity, captured succinctly in 1 Cor 11:17-22, but visible all throughout the letter), and hence have interpreted v 23-34 as a diatribe on personal holiness. Can we get back to a communal-covenant theology instead of an individualist-legal theology when talking about communion?

  3. On the other hand, why have the Roman Catholics so mystified communion to the point where there is no real connection to the event? Yes, I know they view the wine and bread as the literal blood and body of Jesus, but for the love of peace can we get past those pagan notions and pay attention to the Jewish context of Passover, why it existed and why Jesus would transform that into his own meal for his disciples?

  4. Most importantly, and this one applies to almost all Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Why have we implanted the idea in the heads of our congregants that 1) communion can only be administered by clergy and 2) that it can only be had in the 4 walls of a church building. I’m sure most churches will disagree with this accusation, but I’m yet to see any visible efforts at encouraging Christians to have communion in their homes with one another – that’s probably because most of us place no real value to meetings in homes anyway, unlike the early Christians. This attitude is akin to a marital counselor telling the about-to-be-married couple to only have sex in their bedroom. Well, some of us will be going to hell if that was the case, but I know that God is more imaginative and fun than that, considering he want his commands on door frames and the like.

So those are my 4 short and sweet questions. I know I’m rocking a few boats, but that’s what boats exist for – to be rocked.

Let us remember that there is a good reason for New Testament’s imagery of Jesus Christ and his church being depicted as a marriage. Prophets like Hosea started the trend in regards to Yahweh and Israel, and the NT simply followed in that direction. If we want our marriage (as a community) to Jesus to be as exciting as we want human marriages to be, let us reconsider the importance of the one tool of covenant renewal – sex. Let us have more of it, more regularly. (Oops sorry, I meant communion).

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2 thoughts on “Why are We Not Having More Sex (sorry, I meant more Communion)?

  1. Thanks for observing the connection. Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, a sweet smelling sacrifice before God. Paul also says quoting Luke that he received this tradition from the Lord which he is passing on, on the night he was delivered he took the bread and he said this is my body given for you. The cup is the new covenant in my blood. As long you take these things you remember the Lord’s death and proclaim it till his coming. Paul uses the Old Testament metaphor for the old covenant as a marital union between YHWH and Israel and readapted it to the Messiah and his Church. He then uses it as the ultimate template for sacrificial love, which marriage in the Church must follow. I think the reason why we have turned communion into a pietistic tool is because we have a truncated understanding of the cross. We have such a flat understanding of the cross because we generally do not get scripture. So we have no understanding of covenant and do not realise the cross is a covenant. I think you spoke about the cross as covenant from the work of Michael Gorman. Even the designation “atonement theories” presupposes the cross is about moral piety and we work out how we achieve that. We call it a communion because it is a reminder of our covenant with the Lord, reaffirming our faithfulness to him. Funnily enough he compares idolatrous table fellowship to adultery through the the story of Israel worshiping with the pagan Moabites during the desert wondering. Again thanks for your insightful posts.

    1. Yes, at the heart of many atonement theories is an Augustinian anthropology of human failure to obey God’s moral laws which then needs to be resolved. If the Western church doesn’t think beyond that anthropology (without neglecting the seriousness of sin), it is impossible for it to grasp the deeply Jewish covenental mode of thinking instead of the Greco-Roman legalistic way of thinking. Because of this mode of thinking, we gloss over all the language about marital fidelity by both the prophets and the NT, and still insist on thinking in legal frameworks.

      In that respect then communion, understood from the aforementioned Western mode, will definitely be about morality, instead of about the 2 most important commands – loving God and loving neighbour.

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