A Testimony to Church and Community

by PammyMcB

The life led by Eberhard Arnold was truly an inspiration to many. In the first section of A Testimony to Church Community we are taught who Eberhard Arnold was and of the life that he led. Eberhard was dedicated to benefiting the poor and oppressed from a young age. At the age of sixteen, Eberhard fully made his commitment to doing the Lord’s work. He married in 1909. Shortly after, he had to move his family due to an illness of the lungs and larynx. This is when Eberhard began writing. His sister-in-law moved in with the family and became Eberhard’s secretary as well as the first member of their community. Though Eberhard was drafted and served a few weeks of service, he had a strong anti-war view fueled by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount particularly inspired Eberhard. He strongly believed that it is not possible to be both a Christian and a soldier. A short time later, Eberhard Arnold’s community began to grow. They were dedicated to educating underprivileged children. The community also educated others in the surrounding area from their many publications. The group’s efforts to live a peaceful, communal life were suddenly halted by invading Nazis. The community uprooted (children and youth first) and moved to Switzerland. While on a quest for a more permanent home for the community, Eberhard passed away as he underwent surgery on his broken leg. Before his passing, Eberhard left his community with inspirational words on his hopes for the future and continuation of the church.

I found the dedication of Eberhard Arnold to God very inspirational. He strove to find solutions to many problems facing his community. I believe that Eberhard took the teachings of Jesus very seriously. This is quite evident when he stated, “We must obey God rather than men.” Eberhard, like Jesus, strove to reach out to those who were marginalized. I like that Eberhard reached out to the youth in particular. His community’s dedication to educating underprivileged children is above all inspiring to me. After reading how willing Eberhard was to keep his community going no matter the obstacles that came their way, I was truly moved. I have learned from this short passage how dedication and determination in life through Jesus can touch and change many other lives.

In the second section of A Testimony to Church and Community, we get more insight to Eberhard Arnold’s views of God’s purpose. To Arnold, God’s main purpose is togetherness or unity. Arnold told us that we cannot achieve God’s purpose without knowing love. Only love prevails and God’s love is eternal. Love is kindness and fulfills the needs of others. Love is unconditional and warrants no return. This love sees through the sins of man, and still loves and protects. Arnold felt that God’s purpose is for us to realize that the creator, God, is not in nature. Nature is not a way to God, because he is greater than all of nature. In class, we have learned that God is creating again. He is creating togetherness. Arnold tells us that whoever walks the path of God shall be granted an eternal reward. Arnold warns us of the evils of material goods. To him, material goods must benefit God’s purpose. Arnold feels that man must rise above temptations in order to win God’s kingdom back; then, and only then, God will return to rule. Arnold also reminded us that God exists beyond man-made boundaries. He reaches the farthest expanses of the universe. We must become worthy of God. Arnold proposes unity as God’s purpose. Just as we have been learning inn class, Arnold sees the oneness of God and the oneness of man as this purpose. He tells us when we are in isolation, living the way we do today, we are unable to truly live. We will truly be alive once broken free from the shackles of our own existence, our own isolationism. When we accept God, we become free from struggle. The Kingdom of God is within us, no matter where we reside. This reminds me of Acts 2:5 where Luke tells us of the diversity of the followers of Christ. Next, Arnold understood that we all have sin, “the beast in us,” and it fights us every step of the way. He felt that we must turn our thoughts into actions and we must keep our thoughts beyond the flesh. We need to be less self-centered to find true freedom. This freedom will lead us to Christ. I feel Arnold was speaking of us finding our oneness with God. To Arnold, Christianity has lost a lot of the true meaning by making it for one person. He felt Christianity is not for the benefit of just one man, but for the benefit of all men. Arnold felt there would be no justice until those who do God’s will inherit the earth. Getting rid of weapons will not bring about peace. Only ending animosity toward one another will bring peace. Peace is found in unity with both Christ and man. We must remember that it is not right to kill a murderer, because this will make us as “impure” as the murderer. This entire section is like a guidebook to finding unity with God through unity with man. If Arnold is correct, then our wait has just begun. This is where our faith has to step in, because chaos consumes our world. We have segregated ourselves from one another for the purpose of self-preservation.

This section of Arnold’s A Testimony to Church and Community covers a variety of topics that all relate to the success of Church Community. These topics include: private property, true understanding, diversity, and social problems. The first thing that Arnold wants man to remember is that private property isolates man. It is the root of most of man’s evils. Capitalism is evil. A capitalist world does not fall because too many people are driven by greed. War is driven by love of the flesh, love of property, and love of self-preservation. Therefore, private property is inherently evil. The sun, the air, the water, and the earth are what keep us living. God gave it all to us. The sun belongs to all man, because it is beyond man’s grasp. However, the air, the water, and the earth are being privatized. The earth should belong to all men, but it is parceled among the many few. Prophets such as Jesus are pro-man therefore they must be anti-private property. Man should follow Jesus’ example and give up all their worldly possessions. Anything possessed by man is his curse. To receive full freedom from all rights and all privileges, man must not collect possessions. Unity is the key to life. It is a part of life. True unity comes from a communal way of life. This section of Arnold’s book reminds me of Acts 4:32-5:11. I think that the point that Arnold is trying to get across is that we all must put our trust into God. We must trust that God will take care of all of our needs. We must remember that if we are in unity with God, then we will be provided for. For a true community to work effectively, man must sacrifice everything including himself. This is what it means to love. This reminds me of Acts 15:1-35 where we learned that every man in God’s community must sacrifice many things that makes him an individual. They must sacrifice their culture and their ideals in order for the community to work.

Next Arnold shares with us that true understanding comes from “the spirit of Church Community” (Arnold, 30). Community begins with agreement on emotion, will, and thought. If the bond between a group raises the group to higher ground, then they will be able to see more. They will find fulfillment, and they will find something beyond humanity. What they will find is the Holy Spirit, which creates a new perception of reality. Each person in a community is just as important as the next. The Church is more than brick and stone. It is the people who dwell within its walls. Take the walls down; the Church should still thrive. While reading this, I am reminded of Peter’s vision where he learns that anything that God has made is not impure or unclean. He applied this lesson to people as well. He learned that every man was an equal to himself. Arnold then adds that the Church should be diverse. This section reminds me of the picture painted in Acts 2:5: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” It should reach beyond all nations under heaven and beyond worldly bounds. The Church should reach beyond time and space. It should be the power of God to reconcile all things. God has given the world diversity and his goal is to bring the diversity together as a working unit.

Also, Christ’s Community should alleviate all social problems. The New Kingdom must be free from common sin in order to find success. The laws of Christ must stand before the laws of man. All men must follow Christ’s law to bring forth community or The New Kingdom. All men must remember there is only one leader of any Church; that leader is God. No man can govern another. The purpose of the Church is not only to spread the word, but also to live by the word. I think if everyone were able to follow the advice of Arnold, our world would be a much brighter, safer world. However, since man is unable to let go of everything that makes him an individual, we are not able to find peace and alleviate all social problems. There are many of us within the community in the “waiting” process trying to live by the laws of God. Hopefully, one day, we can all come together and not have to wait any longer.

Throughout the poems of Eberhard Arnold, we find continuing ideas. These ideas include: community, unity, and oneness; love; peace; work; giving; waiting; and trusting. All but one poem fully paints a bright picture, until the end anyway. I will discuss that poem as you read on. I will tackle the more prominent idea in Arnold’s poetry, community. As I go on, you will see how community ties everything else together. I have learned from earlier readings that Arnold feels strongly about the idea of unity and community. Throughout his poems this idea, his message, comes up a total of eighteen times.

Arnold’s message is clear. We must remember that God is one, and through his word we envision the community. God is with us, and His Kingdom is near. His mission is to help us find fulfillment through community. If we become one, God will work through us. Because he works through us, we will be able to work together through community. Our work is to teach others to love each other. We must teach them that Christ is the love that fills hearts, and God is uplifting. As we work, we wait; and when we wait, we learn to trust God and to work as one. God is the trinity working together, so we too must work together. Through working together, new members will join together and complete our circle; then we will be a complete community because we will not only have a physical community, but also have a spiritual community. Only through a spiritual community will we be able to find peace. Peace will help us to be free from temptation; then and only then, God will reclaim the earth.

This message ties more closely to Acts than Revelation thus far. Again, I can see the story of Ananias and Sapphira in this message. We must learn to trust in God to help others find peace and community. However, in Revelation, we are told that God is one. So through this, again, you get the sense of unity. In the letters of John to the seven churches he has told them that they have lost their way. From losing their way, they have lost their sense of unity and community. I feel of all the poems the second poem is more closely tied to Revelation than the others. This poem actually reminds me of the letters. He tells the reader, you have lost hope. There is war and destruction because you are bound more to your country than you are to God. This has helped Satan to get a foothold among us. Temptation has overtaken the world which has given men great burdens. Men are not united to God and each other; they are united to their country and their possessions. However, there is a light among us; this light is God. He works through us to bring us together, and through this we will be united. Then God will be able to reclaim his Kingdom, Earth. Like John, Arnold is telling people, to wake up, to endure. He reminds them that they are forsaking Jesus, and they should not take the middle road. Arnold is trying to get people to know they are being seduced; and though they feel they are good Christians, they are more loyal to other ideas than to God and Christ. Arnold’s message has been very clear; the answer to God’s purpose is community. It is not only a physical community; it is also a community through spirit. If we wake up and accept this way of life, if we trust in God; we will find unity, love, and peace. Then, everything else will work itself out, and God will take his reign among us.