According to Love
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2012
Kathleen left her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to visit the Alm Bruderhof in 1934, when she was 27 years old. Bold, impulsive, and often pointed, the excerpts of letters below were addressed to her mother, but will speak to anyone for whom faith is a living, burning question. Kathleen died in 2000 at the age of 93, still faithful to what was, for her, the call to follow Christ in radical discipleship.
Leaving the church was no easy step, but the church simply was no solution to the problem of loving one's neighbor as one's self. That was, for me, impossible under a capitalist order, for I found that while I was giving of my surplus and not sharing all – whether of wealth, poverty, joy or pain - I was not really loving my neighbor, but demoralizing him. Of course I saw sincere individuals in the church, and would not cast a slur on anyone. But the church must be more than a collection of sincere individuals. It is the miracle of Pentecost - life and fire, and unity.
The attitude that if one serves God, only pleasant results will follow, reveals a sentimental interpretation of the word "love" (whereas the love of God is strong and powerful). It also shows that one has not faced the facts of history. What about Christ? God certainly guided him – and the guidance led to the cross. What of the apostles – one has only to read Acts to see that physical hardship, deprivation, imprisonment, all resulted from being true to the guidance of God. What of the early Christians and the unheard of things they suffered "to make a Roman holiday"? The same has been true through the ages.
There are two things that kill each other – property and love. This is the narrow gate one has to pass to reach full, rich life – and indeed few there be that find it. Not only personal property, but one's personal desires, appetites, and inclinations have to be given up to live love. It is not a single surrender, but a daily, hourly one. Perhaps that sounds extreme – but it is a cool statement of fact. That is why it is so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
We must be positive. We know that if we seek God's will – the kingdom of heaven – first and only, we shall have what is necessary. But we would not dare to pray that his kingdom come while nursing our resources for ourselves and not actively giving ourselves to the doing of his will.
Why, Mother, your own beloved Bacon said that prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity that of the New. And we are truly in a goodly company with those throughout the ages who bore a faithful witness to the God of love. And need I say we would infinitely rather be with them, whatever it costs, than in ease and comfort in a world torn by fear and hatred and injustice?
Still, Christ's will was, and is, to unite. Think how he wept over Jerusalem! Or think of his prayer, "That they all might be one" – so much so that they are one living organism – his body, animated by his spirit. Christ said, "I am the Way." Not the community and the Bruderhof, not social work. "I am the Way." Modern life is so complicated and torn, so distracting and disintegrating. Whereas the Way is simple, light, and straight. It unifies the whole of life.
I have been thinking, Mother, of the time when Christ shall truly reign on earth, and when the kingdom of heaven will be realized. This is the great goal of our life, which stands as a little signpost amid the deadly confusion and relativism in the world today. It is only a signpost, and an imperfect one, that points toward the coming kingdom of God. But at least we can follow it, here and now, and hope that it says to those who despair of peace and justice and love that there is a way out of all the division and distraction and hatred and fear among men. God is love, and it is his will that men should live in love. And what is more, if they are ready to risk all – economic security, worldly fame, yes, life and limb, for him – the Power to do so will be given them, even in the world as it is...
When men will not live in love, they must live under the law. They must obey a State whose task it is to defend the innocent and punish the guilty. They must be willing to judge and condemn other men – "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" – for the State can only be maintained by force. But it cannot change the heart, and thus we aim to live according to the law of love, as ambassadors of another realm, in a positive, creative way.
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