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Moral oder Liebe (Moralism or Love)
|Date||November 20, 1919|
Moralism or Love
[Arnold, Eberhard and Emmy papers – M.S.]
[Draft Translation by Bruderhof Historical Archive]
Moralism or Love
Romans 1: 18 - 32
Open Evening, Berlin, November 20, 1919
We are concerned with the question of righteousness. Before we can discover what God wants to make of us, it is necessary to recognize what we are, to see our condition as it really is. That is why we have read about the psychoanalytic way/method: how it shows men their own nature so that they become aware of their neediness. Experience of God comes to us from two opposite poles, on the one hand in hell, on the other in heaven when we have found forgiveness. The two opposites draw very close to each other in faith in the Crucified One. Only when we have recognized how much we lack in love, will we be able to receive new life. The picture presented by Paul must be seen in connection with the contrast between righteousness and love. The law makes us recognize what righteousness should be. We recognize what true love is when we see its opposite in emotional love. It is a strange thing about human beings that they acknowledge righteousness to consist in goodness and love and at the same time pass judgments on other people. In doing this they imagine they are on God's side; they recognize the holiness of God--but only in their minds. They have not acknowledged him in their deeds. By judging others they are not making themselves pure, but bringing judgment on themselves. Paul tells us. "When you judge others, you bring judgment on yourselves." We need to live in love. Paul shows us that people do not differ from one another. They are all the same before God. Even when they wrap themselves in a cloak/mantel of righteousness they do not make themselves righteous. On the contrary, they only bring a heavier judgment on themselves. We are not made righteous by moralism or traditionalism or Judaism.... Quite the opposite: the greater our intellectual grasp, the more sharply we must judge ourselves. Paul, who is regarded as a man who rejected the value of works, here comes to the conclusion that only deeds can help. Not conceptions of faith but only practical life. He awakes/stirs our longing for the Kingdom of God, where Eros will turn into Agape.
He awakens/stirs our longing to become people whose righteousness consists in acting out of love. He awakens the spirit of the future Kingdom, the spirit which treats everyone in the same way as God acts towards mankind. We arrive at this attitude only when we see our own unrighteousness every time we see the unrighteousness of others. It becomes plain that we learn from other people's sins only if we see our own sins in theirs. Then the Lord shows us the way to be free (Rom. 1: 18 - 32).
A moralism that condemns immorality will drive people away from God. The real fulfillment of righteousness, of goodness, comes from a nearness to God that feels compassion for such people. It is through this nearness to God that we overcome unrighteousness, not through moralism and social injustice. Only when we focus on love will we really become people who overcome unrighteousness.
It is a question of doing the deeds of righteousness. It is impossible to love out of compulsion, resolve, or moralism. Jesus waged a much fiercer war against moralism than even Nietzsche did. Paul continues this struggle. Loving action overflows from a fullness of life.
It is true that Paul stressed, "Let us do good, especially to our fellows in the faith." Here the fellows in the faith are cited as the core group of concentric circles. Here factors are at work/ forces are at play which do not exist in the love to other people. Love to the brothers has a different character than love to others. Love in unity of spirit, love in God within the common experience, is definitely something quite special, great, and important. It is love in community, love in brotherhood. But have a care/be careful. Paul first says: "Let us do good to everyone." This supports the words of Jesus: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love to everyone without distinction. National unity is not the same as spiritual community. There is no mention of anything national in Early Christianity. "Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, man nor woman...; here all are one in Christ." This would mean that no love to a closer circle excludes the others. What is right about the reference to love to our fellows in faith, however, is that when love wells up freshly and freely in me, I will obviously feel it to those nearest to me. It is clear I will love those in the circle closest to me. Just as no one can order me to love, so no one can forbid me to say I love the Jews and the English. Love is a compelling power of God in my life. I should like to read you the words: "Are you despising the riches of God's kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God's patience is to lead you to repentance?" It is God's will to bring us to repentance through the riches of his overwhelming love. And it is right to realize that because of our poverty in love, our inactivity in social matters, we are in need of grace. Our insensitivity shows us how poor we are. This brings us to Christ and to the heart of God, for we need grace; we need our sins to be forgiven. I rejoice that the way we grasp Christianity is through a powerful feeling that overcomes us, breaks us down, and brings enduring forgiveness.
But "the one who is forgiven much, loves much." If I claim God's riches for my life and am in continual need of forgiveness, then it leads me to repentance. Because God's heart is so near, a spark leaps over to me. We know very well that God does not limit himself to one nation or race, We know that he sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Through him we are overpowered by a love to all men. I wish every one of you the reality of God's overpowering love. It provides the only possibility for conquering a judgmental spirit. It was Jesus' very nature. He went to the unrighteous, to those rejected by society. He sought them out. He went to the sinners. He said that true righteousness consists in overcoming moralism. For cold moralism separates itself from those who lead immoral lives. Jesus, on the contrary, went to sinners and associated with them. I believe that a genuine experience of Jesus leads to an overwhelming love for those who are farthest away. I believe this to be the essence of the divine spark. We are nearest to God when we love those farthest away from us and are ready for service because our heart draws us to those afar off.