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Which Kingdom?

Eberhard Arnold
July 9, 1933

     Our concern is to find an inner relationship with all our friends. We want to have a contact with them that means something to us and that shows them which way leads to God’s Kingdom, with His justice, His love, His joy, and His peace. Let us encourage each other to be what we are called to be, that is, people who live for the honor of His majestic glory, His sovereign rulership.
     Let us honor Him with our lives. That is the task set us again and again. May it be granted to us to keep it alive in our hearts.
In every man there are two specific obstacles in the way of this task. The first is obvious and blatant: the evil in us, self-will and self-interest, self-importance, arrogance and conceit, the proud spirit. The second, more subtle, is no less dangerous to the task of living for God’s glory. It is religious self-concern, the introspective study of our own religious feelings, absorption in our own religious life and development and in attaining redemption and holiness. Many people think that is not so dangerous. They say that attaining personal holiness belongs to being a Christian. They are right. Unless there is personal redemption and consecration of the individual, there is no community, his life is not lived for the honor of God, and nothing constructive is done for the holy cause. Yet the fact remains that this subtle egotism is just as dangerous as crass egotism. In the first years we get to know the bitter Christ who leads us into death and hews away all our rough, awkward corners—the obvious sins—so that we can be fitted into the wonderful marble tower He is building. But once we form part of the building, the Spirit of Jesus Christ has a much harder task to prevent us from radiating our own light, to prevent the block of marble from contemplating itself in its own setting. This leads us just as dangerously astray as selfishness and greed.
     How does this happen? How do we account for it? It is because of the power of Satan and the nature of the evil spirit. It is a mistake to think that the nature of evil consists exclusively in clinging to worldly riches and amassing private property, in direct, shameless lying and deception. There is more than this to the spirit of Satan.
     Lucifer is a light-bearer. And far more dangerous for us than thick, crass darkness is the false light that mirrors itself. The fallen light-bearer tries to mislead us by making us vain, proud of our own light, of our own holiness. I believe not one of us is immune to this danger. We are all tempted to fall prey to Lucifer through his subtle demonic temptation to religious self-exaltation. We must first be liberated from all vanity in our own religious feeling and thinking if we really want to do a service to our guests and friends, to the whole world, in the utter tragedy and horror of this decadent age. We must be completely freed from all concern with our own image; only then can we in any way live for the honor of Him who, in all His majesty, occupies the throne of God. It is not by showing people how we have developed or how our Bruderhof has developed that we can represent something to them, but only by pointing them to the radiant majesty on the throne of God. May our lives be an honor to His throne!
What shall we tell our dear guests when they ask us how our community is set up and how we arrive at the religious certainty of our inmost experience, unity in the Spirit? When we try to answer them, we must avoid the way of Lucifer. That is difficult. A danger lurks in all personal witnessing to experiences of Christ’s nearness and God-given powers. Again and again the redeemed person, testifying to his experience, puts himself in the center. The minute that happens, we are lost and our task has come to nothing. It has to be quite clear that it must be the Holy Spirit who speaks through us and that we want to be led by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who has come to make the world believe in judgment, righteousness, and redemption. He will convince the world of judgment by showing with total certainty that Lucifer is overthrown, that the god of this world, working as he does through every kind of unbelief, is judged and stands condemned.
     This means for one thing that all those going the way of the Prince of this World will also be judged; that includes those who are living in stubborn self-will or who hold on selfishly to their private property, and also those who indulge in subtle religious introspection. Secondly, the Gospel tells us that the Prince of this World is vanquished for all believers. Those who no longer think about themselves but only of God’s honor are born anew so that they may see and enter the Kingdom of God. That means they are free from Lucifer’s domination, free from violence and tyranny, free from every demand made on us by a tyrannical government, free from the power of the covetous will within us, and finally, free from the religious egotism of our Lucifer-like nature. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will, make the world believe in righteousness and justice.
     What is righteousness? It consists not in what we more or less redeemed men are doing, but in the fact that Jesus has come to occupy the throne of God’s Kingdom. Jesus has entered upon the government of God’s Kingdom. He is given all power in Heaven and on earth and is now among us with the full power of His government and His throne. He holds sway over all other thrones and powers. Christ rules: that is righteousness. This is the only way that salvation can be revealed, also in our talks and conversations.
     Behind our words and our pitifully imperfect work and actions, behind our failings and all our faults, our guests must search for this reality, that Jesus Christ has entered His rulership.
     But over against all this we have to see that neither the people we talk with, nor we ourselves, who belong to the poor and needy, are sufficiently convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts men of sin. Being convinced of one’s own holiness can never convict others of sin, nor can moralistic superiority. Some people make the mistake of thinking they must convince immature souls by being an example of righteousness. Anyone will see through that. They will see the imperfections that exist even in the best examples. Moralism can never convict the world of sin.
     How does the Holy Spirit show men their sins? When a man sins, he is isolated from God. A man living in sin lives in isolation. And my isolation has its roots in my lack of faith in Jesus. That is my sin—I do not acknowledge His rule. That is why I am separated—I do not accept His uniting, purifying Spirit, I do not accept His redemption, I do not take hold of Him in faith, and I do not let His kingly authority work through my human self.
     “For the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, by their refusal to believe in me” (John 16:8,9). So what we really need is to be given the speech and language of the Holy Spirit in order to tell seeking people something of what it means to believe in Christ. If we acknowledge this to be our task, then we see plainly how incapable we are, for what man can tell another what it means to believe in Christ?
     When we hear such remarks as: “If anybody has the right to believe in Jesus,” then we say there is no right about it. The voice that says, “If anyone has a right to believe in God, I am the one,” or even “He is the one,” or “She is the one,” is the voice of the serpent in Paradise, the dragon that rises up from the abyss and rides upon the beast in the form of the government in power. No man has the right to believe in God. We have all forfeited this right.
No one can insist on any right before God. Nobody can, not one. The mystery of faith begins just at the very point when we lose all our rights, forfeit every privilege, no longer think that we have any kind of claim whatsoever. That is the beginning of faith.  Blessed are those who, faced with the Spirit, are poor. Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Woe to those who are satisfied, who want to have a right, or who are looked upon as having a right.
     So we come before God—people with no rights at all, and that is hard to bear. Time and again our Bruderhof too has been shown up as having no right at all to believe in God or receive anything from Him. Every last one of us is without rights, unsuitable, and incompetent. We are unable to believe or to love or to live in unity, unable to move the world or to check Hitler’s progress, unable to get access to the rulers of Central Europe or to shift Europe from its position—let alone to move or get access to America, Africa, or Australia. We cannot move a single mountain.
     We have no right to faith. Faith is like a tiny seed. It is an undeserved gift of God. Whether a man’s name is Adolf Hitler or John Smith or Paul Jones—all men are the same.
     So we need to be given the faith for our task. The Holy Spirit must convince and overpower us anew and teach us the meaning of sinner and justified, judgment and the Kingdom of God. Faith is God’s affair, not man’s. Man must believe, but only God can lead him to faith; only God can give faith. We are completely helpless, unable to do anything for all our dear friends and guests.
     We have only one prayer: Come to us, Holy Spirit! Veni, creator Spiritus. Come to us, Creator, Holy Spirit, and give us faith! Jesus knew this. When He was about to take leave of His disciples, He stood before them, laid His hands on them, and said, “Accept the Spirit, receive the Holy Spirit.” He gave them faith as a free and undeserved gift. With the gift of the Holy Spirit He gave them faith.

(Eberhard Arnold was the founder of the Bruderhof.)
(Used with permission of Plough Publishing,

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