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Life in Community

On Criticism and Trust

May 2, 2019 by

As I looked for a piece by Eberhard Arnold to share this week, the following paragraphs seemed to match the season; outside my window flowers are bursting into bloom in the springtime sun. But these thoughts, written to a friend in 1922, came out of a difficult time in Arnold’s life. There were growing tensions in his congregation and he and his beliefs were being questioned and criticized. Arnold points out that words of criticism spoken without love are destructive and hurting. But if the love of God pulsates through our veins, it will be like the sun that draws sap through a living plant – our lives will blossom in joy and blessing. 

red bud trees in bloom at Fox Hill, a Bruderhof community in New York

The sun shines, sending forth its beams and giving warmth. It awakens and strengthens life. Should it disappear, everything would suddenly be dead, completely dead. It is not the same thing whether the sun shines on a rock or it shines on a flower – although certainly the sun has also awakened life from rocks. In hearts of stone that will not be called to life, the light of God works in a different way than in a heart that receives the light.

The light shines on every human being that comes to this world. Only the person who accepts it completely – and only as long as he accepts it completely – receives authority and strength and tasks.

The light of truth, the fire with its warmth and judgment, burns in every person. If only we would learn to see this always instead of focusing on what is wrong. This fire becomes judgment rather than grace – raw, corrosive, and poisonous – if union with the central fire is weakened. If the union is destroyed totally, then, yes, the fire consumes. Nothing is left but fiery, evil death, the age-old image of the hellish abyss of fire. The cold light of judgement and of so-called clear recognition without love is terrible: a dead moon, a grinning skull.

The light of truth can only make us grow and become effective if God’s power pulses in us as love, as Spirit, as joy, and as abundant, jubilant life.

If a plant has no sap it burns up in the sun. If it has sap, it grows and receives color and life the more the sun shines. The light of truth can only make us grow and become effective if God’s power pulses in us as love, as Spirit, as joy, and as abundant, jubilant life. We each need the gift of illumination and awakening that comes from within. Otherwise everything, everything is useless and meaningless. Our inner fire, our enthusiasm, our inspiration, our soul, our sexual urges, everything that is fire and love must flow together with the one great light, with the holy Agape, with the heart of God, with Jesus Christ. Then we will win new life, reborn in him in purity and strength. Of course this means that all selfishness and pride in our own strength must be consumed in this sun-fire. This is the only all-important contrast. The old world with its possessive desire passes away; the new creation is born with its devoted, all-embracing, generous love that is of God, in the joy of God. Then our work will be directed by joy and our livelihood will be based on trust.

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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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