No Justice, No Peace

July 20, 2020 by

These paragraphs from Eberhard Arnold and his quote of Herman Hesse give me courage to go on at a time fraught with uncertainty. They are taken from an essay Arnold wrote shortly after the First World War, when the Bruderhof had been in existence for about a year. His vision for the community was that it might be a place where the love of Jesus would take concrete form; that living in community together, men and women would demonstrate peace and justice.

We believe in a new birth – a life of light from God. We believe in a future of love and constructive fellowship. We believe in the peace of God’s kingdom, and that he will come to this earth. This faith does not mean we are imagining things only for the future – God will bring this future and give us his heart and spirit today. Christ lives in his church, which is the embodiment of his life. As the hidden, living seed of the future kingdom, the church has been entrusted with the peace that is characteristic of her and the love-spirit of the future. Therefore [the church] shows herself in the present too, as justice, peace, and joy in this world.

Jesus knew he would never conquer the spirit of the world with more violence, but only by greater love.No matter what its origin, we must speak up in protest against every instance of bloodshed and every power of violence and death. Our witness and will for peace, for love at any cost, even at the cost of our own lives, has never been more needed than it is today. Those who tell us that questions such as nonviolence, conscientious objection, and discipleship of Jesus are not relevant today are wrong. Today these questions are more relevant than ever. They will require perseverance in an absolute love that gives one the courage to die for one’s beliefs.

Jesus knew he would never conquer the spirit of the world with more violence, but only by greater love. This is why he overcame the temptation to seize power over the kingdoms of this earth. What he proclaimed was God’s rulership in the present and the future. God’s will was present in his life, his words, his deeds, and his suffering. This is why in the Sermon on the Mount he speaks of those who are strong in love, the peacemakers, those with heart who will inherit the land and possess the earth. The kingdom of God belongs to them. He took up the ancient proclamation of peace and justice which belongs to the future kingdom of God. He deepened the crucial “Thou shalt not kill” which ruled out all murder. He showed that any cruelty – any brutal violation of the inner life – injures body, soul, and, in fact, God himself, just as much as killing the body.

ternsArtwork by Gill Barth

We do not deny the existence of radical evil and sin, nor that the world will come to an end. But we do not believe in the triumph of evil. We believe in God, the end of the world as he wills it, the rebirth of the earth and humankind. This faith is not evolutionism, an inevitable ascent to greater perfection. This faith believes in the growth of the divine seed in consciences. It believes in the Christ spirit, in individual rebirth, in the fellowship of the church. It also believes in an upheaval through world catastrophe. It sees war, revolution, and other horrors of the end as part of the judgment and collapse of this depraved, degenerate world of compulsion and coercion. . .

It is an error to think that all Jesus wanted was to nourish the hungry soul. He concerned himself just as much with people’s bodies as with their souls. Jesus also carried on, from John the Baptist and the Old Testament prophets, the proclamation of the future world order of peace and justice as surely and determinedly as he continued the proclamation of the rebirth of the individual.

Because we know there are many today who cannot respond to the language of the Old Testament – or who are not yet ready to do so – it is our task to spread the message of peace in whatever way we can. Hermann Hesse speaks with freshness and clarity on the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”: 

We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. For the consistent socialist all property is theft. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hardheartedness, all indifference, all contempt is, in the eyes of the believer, nothing else than killing. It is possible to kill not only what is in the present, but also what is in the future. With just a little skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere. The future is flowering everywhere. We see only a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet. We kill with every step.
This is why every one of us has a personal task. This task is not to help all of humankind a little; it is not to improve some institution, not to abolish a particular kind of killing. All this is good and necessary, too. Yet the most important task for you and me is this: to take a step forward, in our own personal lives, from animal to human being.

About the author

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel, an author with a particular interest in Bruderhof history, writes a regular blog post featuring timely...

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