An offering of pithy quotations, with an invitation to read more. In many cases, a link is given to the entire speech or essay from which the quote was taken.
- The Childlike Spirit
- The Conscience
- Hidden Christ
- Kingdom of God
Note: spoken March 20, 1933; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.
Augustine goes even further. He says we ought not to see each other as we are now, but that we should see others as they are meant to be, as they will be when God’s Spirit fills them completely...
Note: meeting with visitors July 16, 1933; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
Unless our justice is better than that of the moralists and theologians – and that of the Bolshevists – we cannot enter the kingdom of God. The justice of Bolshevism is inadequate because it does not come from the heart, nor from spiritual fellowship; it is forced down people’s throats. And that is no way to build community.
Bolshevism and political communism are based on an ideal of centralized government and economy. They force a way of life on people. They approach things from without. They tackle the outward problems of economics in the hope of improving inner relationships. But murder is not the way to peace. Killing is not the road to love. Thus Bolshevism is a dangerous abyss; it is anti-Christian. And yet it can point us to something better and purer: Christ and his perfect love.
Note: lecture held in Berlin April 7, 1919; printed in God's Revolution (Plough 1984, 1997).
The dark reality of today--humankind destroying and ruining itself in reiterated madness--must be opposed by a much greater reality: the light of tomorrow. In this light humankind is called to something that is the opposite of betrayal and deception, of murder and hate, of death and destruction. (1 Thess. 5:4,5)
But we will not find the assurance that the dawn is coming until we have grasped night's darkness, its impenetrable blackness and bottomless suffering.
The Childlike Spirit
Note: spoken August 10, 1933; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
The kingdom of God belongs to children. For this reason we can be led to the divine truth only if we have the childlike spirit. Certainly that does not mean that we should not be real men and women; the childlike spirit is not childish but rather unites itself with real manhood and real womanhood. It is the spirit of confident trust, of humility and endurance – the spirit that rejoices and loses itself in the object of its love and is released from self-contemplation. It gives itself completely, unaware of strain and sacrifice, and spends itself as though absorbed in play. It is the spirit of courage, for the true child – like the true man or woman – is never afraid or fearful. It is the answer to all our needs, for the childlike spirit comes from the Holy Spirit. And we must believe that this Spirit really exists and that we can receive it.
Note: printed 1925.
There are political organizations that stand, as we do, for international peace, the abolition of private property, and full community of goods. Yet we cannot simply side with these organizations and fight their battles in their way. We do feel drawn, with them, to all men who suffer need and distress, to those who lack food and shelter and whose very mental development is stunted through exploitation. With them, we stand side by side with the "have-nots," with the underprivileged, and with the degraded and oppressed. And yet we avoid that kind of class struggle that employs loveless means against the opposition and that seeks to avenge the lives of those who have taken lives from the ranks of the proletariat. We for our part reject the defensive war of the working class just as much as the defensive war of a nation.
We live in community, because we take our stand in the spiritual fight on the side of all those who fight for freedom, unity, peace, and social justice.
Note: public lecture, Berlin, April 7, 1919; printed in God's Revolution (Plough 1984, 1997).
Every awakening of humankind's collective conscience is of deep significance. There is such a thing as a world conscience, the conscience of humanity. It rises up against war and bloodshed, against mammonism and social injustice, against violence of any kind.
Note: spoken June 25, 1935; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
There can be no victory of the Spirit as long as people set themselves up as healers of sickness. The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with magic. Not until all human claims disappear will the Spirit of Jesus Christ show himself as the Spirit who heals sickness, drives out demons, and overcomes death. Not until we lay down our self-will can God be victorious over demons…
Christ reveals himself only to those who no longer seek their own honor and greatness. He seeks that church in which people are unimportant – in which people have become like children and beggars. He reveals himself only to the church that lives without hypocrisy and without any religious show. But there, where people turn to him for all things, demons and darkness will yield…
The Hidden Christ
Note: spoken October 8, 1933; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
We believe that every human being has a longing for true justice, true love and unity. Therefore, the open door of the community is open to everyone. At the same time we realize that not every person is ready for community at every stage of his or her life. You can't expect everyone to be able to accept it at every moment. For example, I can't simply stand at the Leipzigerstrasse in Berlin and call, "Come here, all of you, come and live at the Bruderhof!" It is not cowardice that keeps us from doing this. It would be folly; many people would simply not be in the position to understand such a call. They would not be mature enough in their inner development to follow it. God must call them first. I have no right to call anyone unless the Spirit himself has already called him.
The Kingdom of God
Note: spoken in May 1934; printed in God's Revolution (Plough 1984, 1997).
The final Kingdom is near, and the whole world should be on the watch. But the world will not take heed unless the Church of Jesus Christ puts the unity and justice of this Kingdom into practice daily. Faith will bring about true unity among believers who are ready to live a life of unlimited, active love.
Note: printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
At Pentecost, there was such oneness between the apostles and those with them that each person present heard his own language being spoken. The listening crowd was moved by the same Spirit that overpowered those who spoke. This was neither hypnosis nor human persuasiveness; rather, people allowed God to work in them. They were filled by his Spirit. And at that very moment the only true collective soul assumed shape and form: the organic unity of the mysterious Body of Christ, the Church community, was born…
Note: informal discussion with a visitor during lunch, September 9, 1935; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
Religion and devout feelings are useless unless they are expressed in action and in truth, that is, in real community. Jesus says, Love God! And his other command is exactly the same: Love your neighbor! We cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor.
Note: spoken September 13, 1935; printed in God's Revolution (Plough 1984, 1997).
He has called us, not so that we love our own lives, not even the lives of our fellow human beings. In other words, we are called to live, not for people, but for the honor of God and His Kingdom. We must not endeavor to raise ourselves to God's Kingdom by loving our life and taking good care of it. The way to the Kingdom leads through death, through very real death. It demands that our life be given up for the sake of God and His Kingdom. (Mark 8:35)
If we understand our time as it really is, we cannot fail to see how close that demand has come. We need not even go so far as to think of war, though it seems imminent. The political situation today requires that we be willing at any moment to lose our lives in serving the cause we have taken up. And woe to those who try again and again to keep their lives! (John 12:25)
Note: excerpt from Innerland (Plough 1999).
Deeds reveal the character of the heart. If the heart is not clear and undivided – "single," as Jesus puts it – then it is weak, flabby, and indolent, incapable of accepting God’s will, of making important decisions, or of taking strong action. This is why Jesus attached the greatest significance to singleness of heart, to simplicity, unity, solidarity, and decisiveness. Purity of heart is nothing else than absolute integrity, which can overcome desires that enervate and divide. Determined single-heartedness is what the heart needs in order to be receptive, truthful and upright, confident and brave, firm and strong.
Note: Letter to Friedrich Böhm, 1920; printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
It is not possible to equate a life in Christ, lived by grace, with political socialism. On the other hand I feel strongly that many of the demands of conscience raised by socialists are born of the same longings that animated people in the time of John the Baptist...
The movement of conscience that is alive in socialism and communism is directed against the rule of mammon and bloodshed, against class hatred and greed. This movement comes from deep within; it is a movement of God. But this does not prevent me from recognizing, at the same time, the presence of powerful satanic and demonic forces at work in these same political movements.
What we need today – and what none of us has yet attained – is a simple discipleship of Jesus that responds to the longing of the present but goes beyond spiritually edifying experiences.
Note: printed in Writings (Orbis 2000). It was spoken at an informal meeting on March 26, 1933 to a young man who inclined toward complicated theological arguments.
Ernst, we are fellow sufferers. We both have a theological vein. This is a gift from God, but it is at the same time a great danger that makes it very hard to live completely from what is genuine, from the depths of one’s being, from the direct source of being.
Years ago I wished that I had grown up as an industrial worker. But that was a foolish wish. We cannot change who we are. And yet we must become free from theological introspection; we must be won for the holy cause by a glowing, inner fire. You must become free first from your pronounced tendency to theologize, and second from your own markedly cramped will. Accept your fate: you are a theologian. But now you must become a child.
Note: printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
What we have all been looking for is a life where brotherliness is voluntary, where there is no artificial attempt to make people equal, but where all are of equal worth and are therefore free to be very different. The more original an individual is, the better. The greater the differences between people, the closer they can come to each other inwardly. We affirm the individual personality: each person, adult or child, is unique. But this uniqueness, taken to the ultimate depths, must lead us to the Church. If we all go into the depths, we will all be united. The more original and genuine we are, the more fully will we all be one.
Note: printed in Writings (Orbis 2000).
Justice and love demand that everyone take part in simple practical work with a spade, hatchet, or rake. Everyone should be ready to spend a few hours each day in either the garden or on the field: digging and spreading manure, plowing, or hoeing potatoes; on the reaper, at the circular saw, or in the locksmith’s shop. Everyone should be ready to devote a few hours every day to this practical work; those who have done purely mental work till now will feel its humanizing effect especially.
In this way it will be possible for each person’s unique gifts to be kindled. The light that flickers within each heart will then exhibit its once-hidden glow in scholarly research or in music, in expressive words, in wood, or in stone.