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In my opinion, although I think that firm support can be found in Scripture for the baptism of children prior to the age of reason or accountability (although not all Christian denominations agree on that issue), the same reasoning would not be applicable to the administration of communion to a child (paedocommunion). Paul speaks specifically in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 of the ability to discern the presence of Christ's body and blood as a prerequisite for proper receipt of the sacrament, and also states that those who commune without that discernment bring God's judgment upon themselves. In my opinion, very young children are not capable of such discernment, or of conducting the self-examination that Paul prescribes in this passage prior to receiving Communion. (In the Lutheran church in which I was raised, there was a two-to-three year period of weekly catechetical instruction by the congregation's pastor starting at age eleven or twelve, culminating in the first administration of communion and the congregation receiving the individual into communicant membership -- collectively referred to as confirmation -- at age thirteen or fourteen (in the spring of the eighth-grade year).) If there were no adverse consequences associated with partaking of communion in an undiscerning or unworthy manner, the question might not be so serious. But Paul makes clear that doing so makes a person guilty of Christ's body and blood.
It would depend on whether that child was a believer or not in Christ. If the child was not a believer, then a parent, guardian, or another authority figure should gently explain what communion is and how it is only for followers of Christ to partake in. There are many biblical reasons for including the child: The child is part of the new covenant in Christ's blood, and can 'drink in remembrance' of Christ. (I Cor 11:25) The child, as a believer, can "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (I Cor 11:26) The believing child is part of the body of Christ, and hence should partake as other believers in the 'one loaf.' "I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 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 share the one loaf." I Cor 10:15-17 If the child is prevented from partaking in the one loaf merely because of age, it can send the message that children are not a 'true' part of the body of Christ until they get older. Yet as Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Some believe that it would be too risky to give communion to children as they might accidentally partake in an unworthy manner and be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. However, any Christian has the potential to sin in this way - not just children. Paul was admonishing Christians in I Cor 11:27 for that very problem. His solution was not that they should 'avoid sin by never taking communion,' but to examine themselves before they eat of the bread or drink from the cup. (I Cor 11:28) Paul also clarifies that this 'judgment' against those who partake in an unworthy manner is really just God's discipline (I Cor 11:32) and does not mean condemnation to hell. Since we know that God's discipline is just and done out of His great love, we do not need to 'fear' God's discipline for our children if it does happen. If a parent is still worried that the child might accidentally come under discipline, there are a few things the adult can explain to the child to help the child understand communion better: #1 Remind the child that communion is specifically about sharing in the body of Christ, remembering His death and resurrection. It should never be treated as everyday food or viewed as little crackers and tasty grape juice, but always treated as a declaration of Christ's death and one's own participation in it. #2 Ask the child to take some time to reflect on his or her heart. Do you have any unforgiveness or bitterness? Have you told any unconfessed lies? Etc. While the level of this reflection will vary by the age and understanding of the child, any child who has acknowledged that he was a sinner in need of a savior and who has accepted Christ is capable of repenting and confessing sin to some degree. #3 Ask the child why he or she wishes to partake in communion. Is it to remember and declare Christ's death? Because Jesus asked us to? To be a part of the body of Christ? Or, is it for more earthly reasons like wanting to be like their friends, to do what everyone else is doing, etc. Encouraging the child to spend some time in prayer before and after communion can also help the child develop a reverence and thankfulness for the time of remembrance, help them distinguish it from common food, and help them grow in their relationship with Christ.
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