Your aim must be peace with all men, and that holiness without which no one will ever see God. Take good care that none of you is false to God’s grace, that no poisonous shoot is allowed to spring up, and contaminate many of you by its influence. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
It happens in Chapter 13, just after Jesus has washed his friends’ feet, all his friends. Jesus offers a piece of bread to Judas and, the text reports, “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night” (NIV). Or, more poignantly, “Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night” (The Message)
Judas allowed Jesus to wash his feet. But he did not, would not, eat the bread. So he left, bread in hand, and walked into the night to betray everybody.
Which brings me back to my initial scripture for this morning. The Hebrews text is a call for grace. Living in peace is living in the grace of God. Falling short of God’s grace causes bitterness and trouble. The end result of such a graceless witness is – and I like the translation in The Knox Bible – the “contamination” of many.
Today I’m wondering if Judas could have gone through with his betrayal if he’d stayed around for the bread and the wine? If only he had remained in the grace of community? Instead, bread in hand, he removed himself from communion with his friends.
UNGRACIOUS SEPARATION: Here’s what I think. I think that removing ourselves from communion with one another is – to use the words of Hebrews 12 – being false to God’s grace. When that happens, poisonous shoots spring up, and the message of the Gospel of Love is contaminated, and people (both believers and those watching the witness of the church) are distanced from God by gracelessness.
Not only is it critically important that we maintain an open door for all people when it comes to sharing communion… it’s also critically important that we avoid the gracelessness of walking away from the table, bread in hand, and removing ourselves from communion with other believers.
This Church Belongs to Jesus. We’re all sinners, and we’re all humble recipients of God’s wondrous grace. Grace enough for all – DEREK