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    The Beating Heart of God

    Even in judgment, God’s aim is peace.


    February 24, 2020
    • Archbishop Benito P Sagra

      A great treatise on the synthesis of the dichotomy of God's judgment and God's heart beating with love for all human beings. I am touched by the depth and poetic images of the article. The author Eberhart Arnold is brilliant. I will read it again and again as my lenten preparation. Thank you very much!

    From Experiencing God, the third volume of Inner Land: A Guide into the Heart of the Gospel

    To the prophets, the God of Abraham is and always will be the God of the kingdom. According to the faith of the apostles, the Father of Jesus Christ does not want to be forever a God of the law. He is the same God as he was at the time of the lawgiver and prophet Moses, but the way of his heart triumphs over the ways of his wrath. The Spirit of his peace supersedes the law. What the law could not achieve, God accomplished in Christ. Through Christ’s Spirit, faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ is obedient to peace, because faith when it is perfected has as its object the God of perfect love. It is the God of history who makes all the threads of history run together and come to an end in the one, single way of peace – the peace of his Christ.

    We must distinguish between the innermost heart of God and his waist that is girded with judgment. For hidden in the somber flames of judgment lives the ray of his pure love. The deadly accurate judg­ment of his presence is nearer to love than the cold distance of a God who hides his face. The brazen footsteps of God’s wrath are dreadful. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of his judgment. But secretly his pulsing heart spreads out a mantle of love for all his enemies. Beautiful are the feet of his messengers, spreading joy as they come from the mountains and bring the message of God’s heart to the valley of judgment. Their greeting to everyone is peace. Their message is clear: the judgment of God is fulfilled in his heart. He himself has been met by it. God’s heart becomes king! His ambassadors wept bit­terly because peace had been lost. For them, there is no harsher judgment than the loss of peace. But now they hand over this sealed message: that miracle, the heart, is stronger than all judgment.

    Though mountains melt in volcanic eruptions and hills be laid low by appalling earthquakes – even if the earth itself should totter and crack and the judgment of his mighty wrath demolish great powers – still, the love of God’s heart, the rainbow of his perfection, will never waver. The sun of his heart shines upon the devastating storm-curtain of his wrath and the rainbow of peace spans it. Even if leagues of nations and world peace itself suffer shipwreck and all trea­ties be torn up, the seal of God’s covenant will not break. Times of judgment will come and sink into the grave. But peace will arise and remain. That will not change. Peace is God’s final word; it is his heart. Peace is and always will be the ultimate will of God.

    Though mountains melt in volcanic eruptions and hills be laid low by appalling earthquakes, still the love of God’s heart will never waver.

    If we stop looking merely at the historical instru­ments of judgment, at the human vessels of wrath, and with deep discernment turn to the heart of God, which is at the heart of his works throughout history, then in spite of the murderous chaos of war and the injustice raging around us, we have entered into the garden of peace. The historical Jesus is the heart of God. As the coming Christ, he shows the importance of God’s heart for the whole world. His command empowers us to sheathe the sword and put it away forever. The heart of Jesus foresees with fearful clarity the catastrophe ahead that will devastate all the kingdoms of this earth and the whole world economy through major international wars and bloody revolutions. He knows that because of strife and discord, the hour of wrath must precede the Day of Peace. The approaching fall of civilization with the final war of judgment is one of the main themes of his great prophetic speech, which John and Paul have enlarged upon so powerfully in apostolic prophecy.

    The dreadful cup cannot be avoided. The plowland must be cleared; the corrupting weeds must be burned. After they have run riot for the last time, they must never again be able to spread their seeds of murder. If evil is to be uprooted, it must be exposed for what it is. Political chaos, outbursts of war and rev­olution, economic depressions, and frightful natural catastrophes shall once more deliver humankind to the knife of its own unpeace. But in the midst of all the hellish tumult, the paradise of peace is revealed. Those who hold out and shed no blood in spite of the mounting horrors of the final desolation, doing God’s holy work in pure, brotherly love, will come through the sharpest judgment and the last catastrophe.

    The old world collapses in terrible self-destruction, but the church of Jesus Christ takes no part in all this horror. The frenzied power of the world loathes the unassailable peace stand of Christ’s church. In their fury, all warlike powers persecute the gathered unity of God’s peace. Even in the battering storm of extreme need, the church rejects the slightest sign of the militarism of the inhuman beast of prey. The power of love opposes the violence of unpeace. Precisely for this reason, persecution reaches the heights of its fury. The prophetic Spirit of the King of Peace sees that the tension between these ultimate and diametrically opposed powers of love and hate is the shaking force at work everywhere in world history and in history’s end. This Spirit sees that the throes of extreme need must precede the birth of world peace.

    The power of love opposes the violence of unpeace.

    The dreadful birth pangs of the end times are part of the curse of death brought by the loss of man’s original peace. The peace of God and of the great Advent cannot be born without a final judgment over frightening unpeace as it brings forth its last mon­strosity. Just before the new breaks in, all that is old must be shattered by appalling need. All institutions made by human society must be overthrown. Every form of their power and slavery must be obliterated. No peace can be planted on the unchanged soil of unpeace. The plow sets to work. It breaks up the sod again. The beginning of God’s rule leads to the frightening end of world history so that on its ruins, purified of all adulteration, the justice and righteous­ness of eternal peace will be able to rise.

    Right into the midst of a world driven frantic with unpeace and injustice, Christ will let the unblemished kingdom of peace break in. But this future, coming directly from above, is already present in the Spirit of Jesus Christ: in his church, the will to peace is put into practice here and now. God’s world judgment, advancing through the last and greatest catastrophe in the history of war, annihilates the evil powers of discord in order to bring in eternal peace. God’s rule has to make this final step because it cannot make any alliance with the powers of injustice. Under the trampling boots of soldiers, God’s heart, as Christ crucified once again, beats on in unchanging love: it is the church of the Crucified One, which carries God’s peace inviolate to meet the coming Day.

    The Spirit of Jesus Christ lets the fresh air of the ultimate kingdom of peace blow into the midst of this sultry, disaster-laden atmosphere. His gospel brings purity, reconciliation, and unity. His new Spirit is the authentication of the kingdom of peace. Through the signet and seal of the Spirit, what is decreed for the future is already entrusted to the church. The church of Jesus Christ is the body of the community of perfect peace, through which life and immortality are revealed in our time. As the bearer of the kingdom of peace, the church is freed from all killing and murdering.

    When we are gathered in the church and God’s love fills our hearts, we cannot be tempted by any power that belongs to force. As Jesus can never be thought of as a Roman soldier, so members of his church can never be chiefs of police, air force officers, artillerymen, or policemen. Neither poison nor bombs nor pistols nor knives, neither the executioner’s sword nor the gallows can be our weapons. As the revelation of the heart of Jesus, as Christ’s letter, our task is simply to pass on the image of absolute love in all its clarity. Standing in the presence of Christ, we must represent that he has arrived; when Christ reveals himself now, we must proclaim his future coming.

    What is invisible in the world of peace to come becomes visible in the church. Everyone shall see this work of God. Everyone shall honor the Father of Jesus Christ through it. This unadulterated image of Jesus is the only hope for the future. The church is his uplifted torch, the radiant city on the hill.

    an oil painting of pink and blue clouds over a verdant green landscape

    Radiant Clouds by Erin Hanson (Image used by pemission)

    Contributed By EberhardArnold2 Eberhard Arnold

    Eberhard Arnold (1883–1935), a German theologian, was co-founder of the Bruderhof and the founding editor of Plough.

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