Every deep experience must lead to deep self-examination. Then, from within, we will be equal to the onslaught of unaccustomed events. War, for instance, is a challenge to inwardness in the sense of self-examination because the developments that lead up to war lead us further and further away from the roots of true strength. …
The distress of our times can help us forward only if we remember our divine calling, only if instead of haste and excitement we learn to seek the roots of strength again: an inwardness founded in God. God has already awakened spiritual movements that have wanted to turn away from what is false in our corrupt civilization and seek a more genuine life, which was to be more truthful, more inspired, more inward, human, brotherly, and communal. The intoxication of a superficial existence, however, has led us again from one injustice to another, from one soulless action to another, from one spiritual murder to another, from death to death.
Without a deep inner uplift at the heart of the people, we will not have the staying power to cope with the effects of all this. Without an examination of our hearts in the light of God’s kingdom, we will continue to fall prey to new errors, expecting society to be lifted up by a human kingdom devoid of God’s Spirit.
Jesus saw into a time when the earth was to experience the horrors of universal war and bloody revolts, severe privations and plagues. In this connection, he predicted that love would grow cold and lawlessness and injustice would increase (Matt. 24:12). The truth of this prediction has been seen in those who wage war and prepare for it. The disturbances of our time now let disorder, lovelessness, and injustice of all kinds increase. All the consequences of war – even if they seem only outward events – will develop into the most terrible judgment ever to fall on humankind. All inwardness will be destroyed if our love for God grows cold with icy fear for our individual or collective existence, our so-called security. All inwardness will perish if we no longer love God, if the glowing love for brothers and sisters, as well as the radiant energy of love for our enemies, is drowned because of boundless sin and the struggle for material advantage – so coldly calculating yet so madly passionate at the same time. Further, it will be the end of all inwardness if greed for power and the resulting violence gain the upper hand once more; they are born of hate and severed from the depth of the soul and the Spirit of God at work in it. They seek only external things, exhausting themselves in superficialities. And if there is such destruction of inwardness it means destruction altogether.
In the same context in which Jesus spoke about war among all nations and kingdoms, about lawlessness, and about love growing cold, we hear from him about enduring to the end, about a movement truly born of God, about mission, and about the working of the Spirit throughout the world (Matt. 24:13–14). In hard times like these, nothing but a thorough and deep-going revival of our inner life, a great and full awakening to God and his all-determining rulership, can bring the gospel to the whole world – the joyful news that Christ alone matters. For that to happen, however, the life of a missionary church must be given: a life that is in keeping with the kingdom of God from its core to the last detail of its outer form, as peace, unity, and community and as love and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This hour of world history is a challenge to inwardness. It represents a call to be at work in the world; it implies tasks that are literally boundless. Therefore it is high time that we gather ourselves for serious thought, going deeper and deeper, in order to gain clarity about our inner life. We have to know the foundations and laws of inwardness. Then we will also gain more and more clarity for the whole shaping of life – in what divine order, under what rulership of Christ, and under what decrees of the Holy Spirit we are to set about this shaping of life, and how to carry it out. Most of all, it is important that we experience the power of God in our inner being, because only then are we capable of standing firm and holding out in the storms to come. Only when our inner life is anchored in God can we gain the strength to take up the enormous tasks of the future with the courage of faith. When unity and clarity bring order in our innermost being, then, and only then, can our life attain the warming and radiating power of the light on the lampstand. Then, representing the unity and freedom of the city on the hill, it will become a light for the whole world.
Adapted from Eberhard Arnold, Inner Land: A Guide into the Heart of the Gospel (Walden, NY: Plough, 2019–2021).
Article edited for length and clarity. An earlier edition of the German, from 1918, can be read in our digital archive.