Christian Living

What Does it Mean to Break Bread?

Comparing Communion to a Meal

I’m always perplexed when the Bible talks about breaking bread.

What does this mean? In some contexts it seems to be a euphemism for eating, for sharing a common meal. In other cases, it seems to be a colorful reference to the Lord’s Supper, to Communion, aka The Eucharist. Which is it?

This question seems important to me only because I ask it through the context of modern church practices, which has separated the two into disparate acts. Communion has become a sacred ritual we do as part of a church service.

A meal is a common activity with little spiritual connection, aside from an obligatory prayer sometimes tacked on at the beginning.

I don’t see this distinction in the early church. For them, I suspect, communion is a meal and a meal is a communion. The two are connected, intertwined; for them, their meal is not merely physical and their communion is not merely transcendent.

To them, every action is a spiritual one.

We will do well to elevate the importance of a meal—both spiritually and communally—while demystifying the sacredness of communion, not to debase it, but to make it more accessible.

As it is, our meals are too routine and our communion gatherings are too ritualistic.

Breaking bread is not just a meal and it’s not just Communion; it is both. May we seek to reclaim this understanding in our practice and in our theology. Let us break bread together with a fresh awareness and a renewed excitement.

May we start today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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