True community exists only in this One, who is the spirit of freedom and unity. His coming preeminence is the one event everything is waiting for. It means the new kingdom as a fellowship of all mankind grounded in God, as love, as justice, as the unity of his reconciliation and peace.- Eberhard Arnold
Eberhard Arnold’s path to community of goods began with his concern for the poor. As a teenager he was impressed by his uncle Ernst Ferdinand Klein’s intervention on behalf of oppressed Silesian weavers and the poverty he encountered in his own work with the Salvation Army. In 1910 Eberhard read Zürich pastor Hermann Kutter’s book They Must, which pushed him toward religious socialism.
Over the next ten years, the Sermon on the Mount came to dominate Eberhard’s thinking, both in public and in private: How could the Christian life it described be applied practically? In 1920 this culminated in his decision to move to the village of Sannerz with his wife Emmy, sister-in-law Else, and a few other likeminded believers to form a Christian community.
Eberhard and Emmy’s concern for social justice and love to the poor led them to open their house to anyone who came. Emmy wrote, “Simplicity, poverty for the sake of Christ, was like an article of faith with us. How could we, who wanted to share the suffering of the masses in those post-war years, keep anything for ourselves?
In this community all possessions were shared, emulating the first Christians as described in Acts. Eberhard wrote, “It became clear to me that the first Christian community in Jerusalem was more than a historical happening; rather, it was here that the Sermon on the Mount came to life.” Eberhard felt Jesus’ call to a new life went far beyond what “duty” required. Faithfulness to this vision required total dedication, both materially and spiritually. It was a radical, narrow way of complete selflessness where all became brothers, where there was neither rich nor poor.
Still, for those living at Sannerz, the issue of community of goods was far more than a question of sharing resources. Having all things in common was a matter of giving concrete expression to a life lived entirely for God’s kingdom. As such, it was not primarily an economic arrangement, nor did Eberhard see it as a Christian “requirement.” Rather, he saw community of goods as a natural consequence of being gripped by God’s will for justice and peace: “The genuine love, the new justice that is for all – this is the truth of God’s kingdom.…Love men as you love yourselves; love them because you love God and because you have experienced that God loves all men. You accept that you are cared for in body and soul and spirit; therefore you must make the same possible for all men.”
1. Emmy Arnold, A Joyful Pilgrimage (Plough Publishing House 1999), 41.
2. Eberhard Arnold, “Aus dem Leben Eberhard Arnolds” (EA 94), 1993.
3. Eberhard Arnold, “Der Jesus der vier Evangelien” (EA 227), 1934.
The Root of Grace
On his fiftieth birthday on July 26, 1933, when Eberhard Arnold gave a talk to members of the Bruderhof community, he surprised his listeners. Instead of looking back at what he had accomplished, he saw only his own human weakness and pointed his audience to One who is truly great.
Why We Live in Community
Everyone’s talking about community these days. In this time-honored manifesto, Eberhard Arnold adds his voice to the vital discussion of what real intentional community is all about: love, joy, unity, and the great “adventure of faith” shared with others along the way.
We are filled with the faith that the living Spirit of Christ is today causing countless small focal points to arise, where not only community of gathering and building up is to be found, but real community of life and of productive work and vocation.- Eberhard Arnold, April 1920
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). There is no other perfection, only that of love. So be aware of the things that thwart this love: property and worry! Wherever possessions are heaped up while elsewhere people go hungry and cold, there is no love. So gather no wealth for yourself. Do not worry. Worriers build life on wealth just as much as the wealthy. Look at the birds and flowers, and believe in the loving God, the Father who provides everything.- Eberhard Arnold