Have you ever used Acts 20:7 to prove that Christians are supposed to take communion every Sunday? I know I have, but when I read Acts 20 now, I see a different “example” left by Paul:
Acts 20:7–12 (NRSV): On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. 12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.
They met on the first day of the week to break bread, but Paul, who must have been unfamiliar with the requirement to “break bread” on Sunday, preached until the next day. Then, because of Eutychus, they didn’t even break bread until later.
This might be a bit shocking, but Paul’s lack of concern for “breaking bread” on Sunday comes from the fact that there is no command that insists we must take communion every Sunday. This is a wonderful tradition, and one that I’m happy to participate in, but it isn’t something we *have* to do.
This kind of “pattern” based understanding of church only leads to unnecessary divisions between believers who enjoy different preferences.
So, how often did they “break bread?” While there is no example or command which suggests that Christians must assemble to break bread every Sunday, there is a passage which tells us what the first century church did:
Acts 2:46 (NRSV): Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts…
Day by day. Not week by week.
Jesus simply said “as often as you eat and drink.” He didn’t mandate a day. Our traditions are great, but when traditions become the basis by which we judge others, we needlessly isolate ourselves from other believers.
One step to becoming a more Christlike church is to distinguish between our preferences and what it means to be Christian. Christians aren’t defined by how they worship, their methods, or their traditions, as long as those traditions demonstrate love for God and neighbor. We know Christians by their profession of faith and the good fruits they produce as their faith expresses itself in love.
We take communion every Sunday because we want to, not because we have to. We take communion every Sunday because it is within our rights as Christians not bound by a required “pattern of worship service” to take it as often as we would like.
May we extend that same liberty to others so that we can work together in the kingdom of God despite our differences. May we embrace unity, not uniformity, as we grow in the understanding that we are united because of (not in spite of) our wonderful diversity!