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Of all the things that can come between people and poison life in community, possessiveness is perhaps the most common. In this piece from C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a senior devil gives advice on how best to corrupt a human.

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For those who keep their eyes on God’s kingdom, it is not only in the future – it is already coming into being in the present. And it is present, for this faith is today shaping a community of men and women, a society in which people strengthen each other toward this goal. Without such a society, how is faith possible? The kingdom of God must be foreshadowed in a human society. The apostle Paul calls this society the body of Christ, of which Christ is the head (1 Cor. 12:12–27). Peter calls it a building, where each stone fits the next so that the building becomes complete (1 Pet. 2:4–12). Jesus calls it his little flock, where all love one another, where each answers for the others and all answer for the one. As such, we are fighters for the future, through whom the earth must become bright. In this way God’s kingdom comes into the present, just as it shall be in the future.

In order to form such a society in Christ there must be people who are resolute and free from anxiety. Right from the beginning, when the apostles began to preach, Christians sought this freedom from worry. But do not misunderstand this. You can’t just say to your neighbor, “Don’t worry!” When a person lives utterly alone and nobody is concerned about him, when other people kick him around or want nothing to do with him, when a person is excluded from everything that lends dignity to life, when there is nothing for him to do but earn his bread with much worry, toil, and burden, then it is a sin to say to him, “Don’t worry!”…

Within a society that proceeds from Christ, worries can and should cease.

At present the whole world, including the wealthiest of nations, lies deep in worries and cares. But within the society and organism that proceeds from Christ, worries can and should cease. There we should care for one another. When the apostle Paul says, “Do not worry,” he takes it for granted that these are people who are united by a bond of solidarity so that no one says anymore, “This is mine,” but all say, “Our solidarity, our bond, must take away our worries. All that we share together must help each one of us and so rid us of anxiety.” In this way the kingdom of heaven comes. First it comes in a small flock free from anxiety. Thus Jesus teaches: “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.… But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:25–34).

From the beginning, ever since Christ was born, people have sought such a society, a fellowship of the kingdom, free from cares and worries. There is an enormous strength when people stand together, when they unite in a communal way. The idea of private property falls away, and they are so bound together in the Spirit that each one says, “What I have belongs to the others, and if I should ever be in need, they will help me” (2 Cor. 8:13–15). This firm and absolute solidarity in a shared life where each is responsible for the other is the kind of life in which you can indeed say, “Do not worry!”

Time and again, people have attempted to live together in this way. Yet it has never come fully into being. And this is the reason why Christianity has become so weak.

For this reason I do not think much of “spiritual communities.” They do not last. People are friends for a while, but it eventually ends. Anything that is going to last must have a much deeper foundation than some kind of spiritual experience. Unless we have community in the flesh, in things material, we will never have it in spiritual matters (1 John 3:16–18). We are not mere spirits. We are human beings of flesh and blood. Every day we need to eat. We need clothing for every season. We must share our tools; we must work together; we must work communally and not each for himself. Otherwise we can never become one in the love of Christ, can never become the flock, the community of Jesus that stands up in the world and says, “Now things must become quite different. Now the individual must stop living for himself. Now a society of brothers and sisters must arise.”

Unless we have community in material things, we will never have it in spiritual matters.

This is the way Jesus calls us to set aside our worries. Yet we Christians somehow expect people to have faith in the most impossible of situations, in conditions where they nearly perish in need and misery, where they exist in wretched hovels, hardly knowing how to keep the wolf from the door. And we come along and call out to them, “Simply believe!” To shout into this kind of distress, “Believe! Then everything will be added unto you – heaven awaits you!” is a demand that simply cannot be carried out (James 2:14–18). No, the kingdom of God must not be only a kingdom of the future. In Christ’s church community we should strive to become united, and begin to become free in such a way that, at least in the circles where we love one another, cares cease.

From Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People chapter three.

Source: Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Action in Waiting (Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2012), 139–144.

Pear photograph by Kasia Lauwerijssen-Weglicka.

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A German pastor and religious socialist, Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt influenced theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eberhard Arnold, Emil Brunner, Oscar Cullman, and Karl Barth with his unconventional ideas about religion, faith, and the kingdom of God.

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