Letter to the community 2008

A letter sent to all known e-mails of the community in 2008, ca 3 years after the exclusion of the author. There was also a website with further thoughts at the topics mentioned and links to it in the letter. The website has expired, so excuse me for the broken links. If I have time, I'll try to find the content behind the links.

8< ----------------------------------------------------------------

Dear brothers and sisters,

    Thinking about our life, I find it right, loving and my responsibility to share my thoughts with you. Remaining thankful for your love for me & devotion, I cannot stay peaceful about some matters. Especially, hearing that in the last few years several towns have been given up and many brothers excluded, it looks justified to ask: why is the community so weak?

   Knowing your wish to follow the Christ and to be purified in every little point, and as Josef writes in the end of the Apology, "Every serious constructive criticism can only help us to grow in the knowledge of God," I take courage to write. And PLEASE take time to think about these matters! Objectively, prayerfully and honestly in front of our heavenly Father and of your conscience.  Please don't rely too much on each other – we are all personally responsible for our decisions. I don't want to invite anyone to separate, but to build up each other, having a new conviction, a new love for brothers & enemies from the Father of love himself. 

* God and brethren

   Our love for brethren shows our love for God. But 'we love because He loved us first' and because we love God. We know that we cannot help each other well, when we are more dependent on each other  than on God.
   We took time for a personal talk with a brother, to know and support each other in our walk with Christ. But there has been a tendency among us, to see dealing with personal relationship with God, thinking, reading alone, as selfish. Probably from fear that someone becomes individualistic, proud of personal recognition or something like that. But if our Father wants us to be one, in unity and able to love, support, compliment each other, why should we be afraid when someone talks with Him longer alone? Surely He can also show to that person how he has to love others. So shouldn't we take at least the same amount of time for personal talks with our Father who makes as able to love our brothers?  Of cause, if someone says he doesn't need others but only God, it would be wrong.
   About Jesus' praying alone we can say the disciples didn't understand enough yet for praying with them. But it looks like Peter was praying alone as well, in Acts 10:9ff, while waiting for the meal, when the men arrived whom Cornelius had sent for him. Did he sin?

* Marriage/Celibacy

    Quite a lot of brethren have been excluded because of sex. sins & wish to marry (even if these exclusions were justified by other reasons). But the Bible tells that marriage was from God from the beginning, i.e we were created to live in a marriage originally. So, shouldn't we think it over?
    In 1Cor7 Paul discourages marriage, but doesn't forbid it. 1Cor7:2, "Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband"   I do not think that marriage is always a solution for such sins, but we shouldn't overestimate ourselves nor make the way narrower than Jesus did. It is good to be free from marriage duties, but if it takes too much energy to control one's sexuality, isn't it Godly to use it in a marriage - the way that God planned it from the very beginning? I heard a similar thought also during our topic/discussion, but what about the practice? Do we have the authority to decide if a brother has a gift of celibacy or not? Are we more spiritual than Paul?
    In 1Tim 5 Paul even advices widows to marry.
Forbidding marriage was a sign of Gnostic false teachers who saw material body as bad. 
In the history, celibacy has been successful only for some, not for all as the rule.
Doesn't this make us to question, if it is right to be so strongly against marriage as the community is, in practice? At least,  I don't find enough Biblical base for it.

* Holy love in practice

    I see a danger in it that we have considered theological details very important. Of cause some teachings are important, but if the body of Christ has different members with different tasks, can we expect all to be teachers and evangelists in a similar level? Have we been fair towards those who have not enough education to understand the theological details? The mentally ill? The old people with low education?    There are nations who have low education level and who even don't have clear terms in their language for basic Christian truths. In a real-life example, translating just one verse, Mk 1:4 into such a language, took several days. They didn't know what is 'wilderness', they didn't have terms for 'baptism', 'sin', 'repentance', forgiveness'. What then can one expect from them for becoming a Christian?    
    It was edifying to meet daily, but can we expect the same from those who have family or other duties?  God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). "If someone doesn't care for his relatives and especially for his household, he is worse than unbeliever" (1Tim5:8) What do you think: what does it mean? Didn't we rather receive something from unbelieving parents than we gave? What testimony of love did we give to those who saw some of us giving up tasks of practical care for somebody, after meeting the community? What testimony did we give to parents (and those who know the family) of Oksana? (I suppose community's attitude against helping unbelieving relatives also influenced her to hide her support for them, even if I can't justify her dishonesty)  Of cause it's not an easy matter if they misuse their money for alcohol. But 'religious' people pray for drunkards to change and they report that changes do happen. I don't mean famous preachers, but usual, compassionate believers.
Didn't we write off such people as hopeless too easily?
  Doesn't warm sunshine of care etc. make people open (for the source of it, i.e God) more easily than cold wind of rejection?
   Did we love enough our enemies, the weak in faith and just unbelieving? They don't see often the turning back to them as love that leads to repent, rather it can make them bitter. It is valid especially about relatives and old friends. It is easy to say it's their own pride and selfishness, but how can they see a  better example of love from the community, if we don't communicate with them, after they doesn't have enough interest at a moment? In our laziness, little faith and pride of devotion, it can be easier to reject than to make constant efforts for someone..

   Also I don't understand really the limits for whom to pray. All groups, as much as I know, pray for their unsaved relatives and friends to be saved, even if they don't want to talk about God. And they start to believe God and their lives change for better. And why should words about praying for the enemies refer only to the Jews (as the community explained)? Also early Church fathers told to pray for the enemies, after the fall of Jerusalem and Judaism.
    Paul wrote to Philippians (4:5) that our gentleness should be visible to everyone, but is the community seen as gentle by many? Myself and some others tended to be hopeless because of not changing and rejective to admonitions. Even we know that seeing our sins should help us to be purified, we saw our imperfection, but we didn't see solution. I used to think that I needed more time for changing, somebody thought she just cannot change her character, several were afraid to confess/tell their sins and thoughts, expecting exclusion rather than hoping to get free by confession. I think basically we wanted to change, but we didn't see the solution. Was it only our guilt or could the community do something better? If somebody is not enough conscious in God's love, mercy, goodness, can he become more conscious of love,mercy, hope by hearing/experiencing mostly about the need to change in order to be accepted rather than about the help that God offers for it? Of cause we have to speak also about sins, but don't people in this evil world need to experience more love, acceptance, help in order to believe in God's power and wish to help?
    God is not hard and merciless lord, but if community's influence makes rather many to experience so, shouldn't we question if we have reflected His merciful love well enough?
   One more example: Even unbelievers know that such a sudden change of circumstances as exclusion, loss of all friends and all one was used to, can make one crazy, but we didn't care what was with them.

* Attitude in the beginning of the community

   Kluge publishes a letter from ÖSM to Gottfried H. from the year 1980, where they ask him not to visit their meetings any more, because of his unchanged hateful attitude towards them. As much as I know GH and from what I heard from others, I would think that he really didn't have a good attitude to this persons (emotionally). Even if he was right in his assessment of their wrong teaching (as JA explains in the Apology), does it justify his disrespect? And finally, wasn't his exclusion 24 years later also connected to his selfishness and disrespectful ways of talking to brothers? But he had had much influence on others till this time. How did it take so long for brothers to realize that he would have needed more brotherly correction?? If the community didn't assess (and deal with) his attitude already then, what attitude  was the base of our separation form denominations? And if the community separated from others under the influence of such an attitude, what can be the fruits? So a very serious and sad question: Didn't GH have too much influence on the character of the community? 

* Authority of the community

   A congregation has Christ's authority only in the right. - It should demand the same as the Christ, not less and not more. Otherwise it can't have the same authority than He gave to the first century church.
   It is sad to write it all.  Unfortunately I see so many points questionable. But there are not so few of others who think in a similar way about the community. And it's not clear from the Bible that they are wrong.
   There are hundreds of communities who say that just they have the truth, the right understanding of the Bible and the best arguments from the Scripture.. People find God, become Christians in very different groups. Even our community is not perfect. So how can it be that only these 100-150 persons in Europe know God really, and all the others have completely false religion? I want to believe that GH and the others who were in the beginning had good intentions, to challenge the wrong in the denominations. But is all the fruit - besides good things, - also critical, fearful, arrogant isolation, broken relationships; despairing, hopeless, even suicidal, alive-buried-feeling, or materially in troubles, ex-brothers – what the Lord desires?

   Even I have much to learn and to grow, I'm convinced, it is God who has given me power in distress; hope, thankfulness, comfort; power not to be bitter or revengeful, but to wish good for all. And even if you don't believe it, please consider the content of the letter, not the writer, because He has said, 'if you accept a little child in my name you accept me, and if you reject a little one who believes in me, you reject me." God spoke even through the Balaam's donkey, the more through human beings.
   And forgive me, if I point to something that has changed already, for my information is a bit old.

  Thank you, if you read it all. Please do not harden your hearts, please do not close your eyes for reality. Please don't exclude anyone for reading this letter, seeing anything right in it, dealing with this questions, but trust God's work in each other. You know that every Christian has the Holy Spirit, and nobody understands everything perfectly. And please trust His work in Christians who don't live exactly as the community lives. Because in different circumstances, they very probably come to different practices in matters that are not clearly commanded in the Scripture. (Even the Apologia contains that idea)
   Please forgive me for not dealing with these topics earlier together. Please forgive that it has taken so long time before I wrote. One reason was the fear that the community is not open enough for these thoughts  (because I heard about some similar case with others). But I know that several of practice has been improved during the time of community's existence. So, in spite of some discouragement, I ask you: please be humble enough to consider this thoughts from a child in the Christ.
 
L