God, who created all things and without whom nothing has come into being, sent his Holy Spirit upon the earth and to all people. This Spirit wants to gather all, to bring them together. Jesus was placed in the world by this Spirit to live among people, and he in turn testified to the gathering power of the Holy Spirit, saying, “How often would I have gathered your children; but you would not let me” (Matt. 23:37). But he was taken away from those who did not want to let themselves be gathered. He was killed by the spirit that scatters, by the power that drives apart (Matt. 12:30).
Yet he, the Living One, returned to his own. “Receive the Holy Spirit! As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21–22). “What you gather on earth will be gathered; what you loose will be loosed; and what you bind will be bound” (Matt. 18:18). From that moment on, all those whose hearts were gripped by this Spirit felt the need to be together. Under the stress of their sorrow they stayed together and waited in holy expectation.
Those were long weeks of waiting. This tense expectancy must always be there before a complete uniting can be given. Unity is not accomplished by a meeting of minds, by a coalition of individual human spirits. It is found exclusively through the coming down and breaking in of that Spirit which is not a human spirit.
Our reverence for the reality of the Holy Spirit must become so great that our trivial personal concerns, including our state of health and our emotional needs, will be consumed as in a mighty flame.
When the great hour comes, will there be a generation worthy of it? As far as humankind is concerned, only one thing is worthy of the greatness of God’s kingdom: the readiness to die. But unless we prove our readiness in the trivialities of daily life, we shall not be able to muster up courage in the critical hour of history. In our communal life we need to overcome completely all our petty attitudes and feelings, to give up all personal ways of reacting to things, that is, fear, worry, inner uncertainty – in short, unbelief. Instead, we need faith, a faith as small as a tiny seed but with the same potential to grow (Luke 17:6). This is what we need, neither more nor less.
Through Christ and his Holy Spirit, this faith is at work in our midst. We have felt it, but we have not lived accordingly. If the Holy Spirit had to withdraw from us because we have grieved him and driven him away, have not held him in reverence but thought little of him, valuing our own affairs higher, then all we can do is ask, “Send thy judgment upon us, and in thy infinite mercy spare nothing!” And then this judgment in mercy, this mercy in judgment, will release us from ourselves and prepare us at last for mission, making us ready for God to use.
So we are faced with quite practical questions: Do we believe that the Holy Spirit will be increasingly poured out over the church? Do we believe that Jesus comes into our midst, that he opens his heart to us so that we may live as he did and have an influence in society as he did? Do we dare to carry out the task as his church in his coming kingdom, to be a corrective within society through the grace of the indwelling Christ? Do we dare to live a life of love in the midst of the world, giving up all privilege and even the right to our possessions and our own bodies? Are we ready, completely defenseless, to follow Jesus?
Adapted from God’s Revolution (Walden, NY: Plough, 2021).
Article edited for length and clarity.