Now Is the Time

Many of us long for a new society, a new awakening of humankind that serves God’s will and his kingdom. But too often we’re distracted by human solutions. In the current political climate, it’s clear that any hope we put in the government is sorely misplaced. So where then does our hope come from?

In this talk from 1928, Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold offers an answer: hope comes from within us. Arnold exhorts his listeners to make their lives count. He foresees an awakening of the masses that will stretch far beyond the personal to encompass and transform all of society, and challenges those who call themselves believers to make this happen. Such an awakening will not come about without struggle and sacrifice, but anything less would not be worthy of God’s great calling. If these words were true in the early days of National Socialism, how much truer are they today?

All the various movements of the past decades will one day converge in a radical awakening of the masses that leads the way to social justice and to God’s unity – that is to say, to the church, to the kingdom of God, and to community in action. We must not cling to a time when we were (or still are) a small circle of people knowing each other intimately. Rather we must be ready to be consumed in a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to be merged with it completely.

Like a volcanic eruption, a spiritual revolution needs to spread through the country, to spur people to crucial decisions. People have to recognize the futility of splitting life up into politics, economics, the humanities, and religion. We must be awakened to a life in which all of these things are completely integrated.

We need to find an attitude of responsibility for public affairs, and this attitude must be completely practical, completely spiritual, and thoroughly believing. We must gain an inner understanding and a broad view of how all things affect each other, and through this find the right way to tackle all kinds of social problems. With this understanding we will be able to work creatively in the economic sphere. We will do all this in faith, and this faith will find its fulfillment in the love that creates community in all things.

So we must win a faith that does not break down in the face of social ills, but that completely envelopes and transforms them – a faith that embraces economic problems and solves them. This means a faith that takes on all inner and outer tasks and makes them part of our daily life; it means faith in a God who created everything and provides for everything and who does not let go of any part of his will.

The new awakening must therefore be both religious and social; a Christ-centered communist awakening, an awakening to God’s kingdom, to grace as a reality. This is the only kind of awakening that comes into question.

This image of the future appears fantastic only to the unbelieving. The believer who reckons with the historical realities of Jesus’ time and of the Reformation will feel that all this must surely take place, and very soon at that. But if we are as convinced of the truth as we have often asserted, then we must live in such a way that all this can really happen. More than anything else we must arrive at such a reverence for the working of the Holy Spirit that our trivial concerns over personal matters the state of our health and our emotional needs are sacrificed in this mighty flame.

Everything will depend on whether or not the last hour finds us a generation worthy of greatness. And the only thing worthy of God’s greatness is our readiness to die for his cause. So we must show this readiness to die in the trivial details of daily life, or we will not be able to stand firm in the critical hour to come. We need to overcome completely all petty points of view, all purely personal opinions and feelings, all fear, care, and inner uncertainty – in short, all unbelief. In its place we must put faith – faith as small as a seed but which has the power to grow.

This faith is active in our midst, through Christ and the Holy Spirit. We have sensed it, but we have not lived according to it. If the Holy Spirit has withdrawn from us, it is because we have grieved him and driven him away – because we have given him little regard and no reverence, and have esteemed our own affairs more than his. Then all we can do is to ask for judgment, and to believe that this judgment will prepare us at long last for mission – that we may be freed and released from all that comes from ourselves. Only then will we be usable for God’s will.

Whether this century is shattered for God’s kingdom or simply passes by depends in part on us. We know what is at stake; we know the will of God. We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit and the powers of the future world. So let us get going; now is the time!

Adapted from Johann Christoph Arnold, ed. Eberhard Arnold, Modern Spiritual Masters (Rifton, NY: Plough, 2011). The original talk from August 26, 1928 can be read in our digital archive.

Article edited for length and clarity.