“Towards the Kingdom of God“

Waiting and hurrying

Rolf Lehmann

1. It is through us that God must be carried into this world.

(See hymn “Des Menschen Sohn wird kommen” by Chr. Blumhardt, 1888; Evangelical Hymn Book of the Evangelical Church of Wuerttemberg, no. 558.
Annotation: Naturally, the original text of the hymn observes a metric verse as well as a rhyme pattern. The following translation does not attempt to achieve either.)

The Son of Man will come, which gives us all great joy;
united with all believers and the number of blessed we are prepared for the Son of Man’s coming, as great mercy is being felt, bringing light to the earth.
(stanza 1)

Yet time is apt to make us lame, we’re even being mocked, and many of us feel ashamed for what is strong and clear. Therefore we need to believe firmly and to always be watchful, so that nobody will steal from us our firm belief.
(stanza 3)

Stay wakeful, oh soul, and do not fall prey to slumber, in order to be fully prepared when the time is setting in, the time of great mercy for all creatures who, miserably laden, are almost ignorant of the way to freedom.
(stanza 4)

2. We have an old dining-room. When it was time to move somewhere else, there was an outcry. Why? Because my father had already sat in it. Such things turn divine for us; what happens is that our whole lives get used to localities or certain formalities, which then become holy for us.
If only I could sometimes rage, showing the anger in me about this kind of society in which everything must become an idol. Part of us must die, again and again, until the whole person has died in Christ. Society, too, must die. All that is venerated on earth must die. I wish you all that wrath. Whoever does not have that wrath does not have the love of people either.

3. I may not be able to speak as a labourer, but I do take a great interest in the labour movement and I sympathize with the workers’ struggle. I see it as my duty not to refrain any longer, but to turn to the public. The Kingdom of God is a new form of society that has to be found, a new way of life. Jesus tackles things at the bottom. Why does he tackle things at the bottom? Well, that’s where he finds the root. For in this greed, this mania for possessions, this selfishness – it is here where the sin of the world lies, here lies all tyranny, all cruelty, all murdering. Therefore Jesus tackles things at the bottom. Nowadays Christians are so greedy; everything is sold and turned into money. Jesus wants to save the world and God wants to help him. He also wants to help us, who are bearing this Jesus-willingness in our hearts. Be a follower of Jesus. Then God will do his will by us. Only God and us! And then God into the world through us!

4. Apart from the air nothing at all is free for me any more. Agriculture is being ruined because the earth is not free any more. What God created should not be turned into money. Woods, fields, and water, God made them, they all must not be mine, they are God’s. It’s in man’s relationship to the earth where the Kingdom of God lies. If people want to understand the earth, they will have to understand themselves. People must understand that they have duties, not only rights. When the Kingdom of God comes, you must not turn everything into money. Enjoy the struggle; where discourse is ongoing, things will make progress.

5. There is a tremendous stirring. The socialist movements. The Church, too, must make an end to some things. To begin with, this distinction between clerics and laymen must have an end; it is a piece of nonsense that has come into the world. Ruling can be done by every imbecile – but doing service! That’s where I need strength. The Protestant Church would bloom like a rose if work was done on Christ’s ground.

6. I have an entirely new society in mind. For a long time I have been of the opinion that religion is of no use if it does not change society, if it does not bring me happiness on earth already. This is how I have understood my Bible, how I have understood my Christ’s teachings. And that’s why I feel related to those people who are reproached with pursuing a utopia. I connect myself with the longing for a new age – not with the [Social Democratic] party. What counts is Jesus’s will alone, which is that the world be overturned. We want to found a new society. Christ, too, wants mankind to be completely pervaded by justice and truth, love and life. In the spirit of Christ I connect myself with this striving.

7. For decades I have sighed and called out: ”Oh God, you sent me into the world, and now I am to spend my life only in the grounds of the Evangelical Church!” Then suddenly God grabbed me by the neck and with a vengeance threw me towards the door of the Social Democrats – leaving me no chance to get rid of his hand. Suddenly the door opened and when I looked around, I found I was in a new world. And whoever has seen that world cannot go back. It is here where my heart is internationally set at rest, at last, at last! Now I can go to all people, whatever their nationality or their religion be. I can preach everywhere and for everybody. And that’s what I must do, for my Christ is there for all people.

8. Inwardly we wish to be free people, outwardly we wish to be fighters who look after the miserable and the poor, not for a sense of charity only – for charity cannot help – but for a sense of justice.

9. Our Christion institutions will become obsolete. Through Christ a new development has been laid out, which drives forward, so that there will be a breakthrough of God’s perfect will. Today we may be in the age when we can achieve a great shift forward – not only for the fulfilment of the promises of the Bible but of the basic yearning of millions of people who under God’s influence urge to make progress: “Things must turn for the better.” Learn to live your life right, according to your characteristic qualities, and remain true to yourself! Self-confidence of the right kind is awareness of God.

10. The new message which Christ wanted to give and which now I also want to give is to tell people: “Stop thinking about the next world!” This has made people forgetful of keeping the earthly existence in mind. Now God wants work to be done in this life. It is here on earth where we are to create heaven! When God wants us to know something about the next world, he will reveal it to us. Beware of seeking for Christ in the clouds, in the next world. But look for him inside yourself, where you discover a good stir, a high sentiment. And having discovered it, think about it! Join your actions to it! And be grateful that you have been allowed to discover something from “above” from Christ!

11. What is in me of Christ, what all my life I will believe and strive for about a Kingdom of God and its justice on earth, is also expressed in this connection of mine with the great working class struggling for their lives.

12. In Protestantism the validity of the principle of development, of growth, of life is unchallenged. Gentlemen of the Zentrum(Party), you cannot move forward, and we, I’m telling you with just as much determination, cannot move backwards. We have to go forward.

13. If someone thinks that his present state must needs stay that way, this amounts to a denial of God. Nothing will stay as it is; God is alive.

14. There is no need for a dogmatic belief in Jesus, the Son of God – it is sufficient simply to follow him. Pious speeches and a search for one’s own [things] will not help on. Doing so, we will get stuck.

15. Thy Kingdom come! First the Kingdom of God must be given accommodation one way or another, before we may come up with pleads asking that God make changes in this world for our sake. So, the reason why despite the gospel the centuries of Christendom became so terrible, so dreadfully covered in bloodshed, why even the most pious people became murderers and perpetrators of crimes against their fellow men – the blame lies with the fact that this Jesus, with whom the new development had started, was not obeyed.

16. Belief can make you very stupid and unfortunately most people almost provide evidence that belief makes stupid. We Christians have to educate ourselves more than other people. Do not read so many Christian devotional books, which make one
thicker and thicker! Read something that makes you enter today’s world, enter what you will need to know nowadays if you want to find and take a modern […] view.

17. What is happening is that through centuries and thousands of years something has been kept and the older it becomes the holier it is rated. Thus, an ancient church is considered much holier than a new one; an ancient cross is much more interesting than a new one; a pulpit from which someone who had a good name gave the sermon once is eminently important! In the Kingdom of God, however, these things do not matter at all – I am telling the truth and I now declare war on all fashion in the Kingdom of God, on all habituation. Or who will deny it to me, who will contradict me?

18. I know well that all who are called believers – Pietists, Catholics, and Protestants – are opposed to me; however, just read the Bible! What do you have it for? Throw it into the fire if you do not mean to take your guidelines from it. […] “Come out!” has been the call throughout the history of the Kingdom of God, forever they had to come out … Today Christianity must definitely not be allowed to stay put. Today something new must come into existence. Today we must enter the world in a new manner. Today the motto is: “Leave what is old. Forward! Forward! If you stop moving, you will be lost!” This is the Apostle John’s last cry in the Apocalypse. People regret that things are not as they used to be in former times. We humans have such an urge of habit – once something has become agreeable to us, it must – we think – continue for all eternity. It is just as if, with the seed sprouting, the farmer wished that this beautifully green field would remain so forever. But the farmer waits calmly until everything is turning yellow, until everything is changing. He knows harvest-time is coming and he is glad when the green of the stalks fades away and they become yellow and finally the time comes when the sickle can be plied.

19. Progress is coming step by step, which means, however, that again and again there will be a kind of loss. With the old conditions having served their purpose, they will be extinguished, will pass. What gave us pleasure in former times must make room for new things, and our joy must be given a new impulse under new conditions.

20. Being God’s messengers […] we may announce salvation, preach peace, speak about the good things, and do so among all people, high and low, rich and poor, just and degenerate. Whoever has been given this task will no longer be familiar with the preaching of misery, of wrongness, of godlessness. All this is being preached already; the whole world is preaching it, […] to every single human life, […] all the hearts that are sighing about their imperfection and sin, about the impossibility of doing good deeds. […] Jesus, however, proclaims: […] You have been forgiven your sins; be confident, the godlessness, the wickedness which is all around you and which has put down roots in you […] and has caused so much trouble in your life, all that will not be allowed to damage you forever. […] And therefore we, too, must now preach about the good things, announce salvation. Still, if we preach about the good things, we must also trust people to do good.

21. Do you believe in the Kingdom of God? In that case you need to become restless. We protest against this world, which is not God’s; we protest against all worldly possession of power. We are in the battle against the dark nature of death and hell. We are on Jesus’s side […], who will also be a fighter […] on earth and carry off the victory.

22. Nowadays everything seems to go to pieces. Christians do not understand each other any longer – world history has drugged them, some are French, others are British, some are Russian and others are German, with everyone claiming to be right […]. However, here on this soil nobody at all is right. On the ground of our national self-awareness we will not be able to become a people of God, there must be some deeper foundation and the sensation that God is with us […] in an alliance. Only this means security and nothing else – no battles, no cannons, no victories -, the latter will not really lead to an elevation of mankind, it will pass; what God has got with us, however, will endure.

23. A new heaven, a new earth, I say it is different from talking about Apocalypse. We can hope for the good things for all the world, we can see to it that God’s name is hallowed, that his Kingdome comes and his will is done on earth as in heaven. This must be achieved on earth – on earth! On earth! We cannot simply keep hoping for eternity. The epiphany of Jesus Christ gives us the courage to say: It is on earth where your misery will come to an end! It is on earth where sin will come to an end! It is on earth where God’s justice, which pleases him, will be revealed. It is on earth where he gives you his gifts and his powers. It is on earth where you shall be cheerful.

24. Being just means: not to lose heart for oneself and for others but to hope for the best. There is a difference between a belief that simply accepts God […] and a belief that really expects something. And I would like to […] encourage you: Do expect something, do!

Collection of quotations

Quotations Chr. Blumhardt, selection Lehmann (german)

Additional annotations

The quotions were taken from the following editions:

  • Johannes Harder, Christoph Blumhardt. Ansprachen,Predigten, Reden, Briefe, 1865-1917, Band 1-3, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1978
  • Robert Lejeune, Christoph Blumhardt. Eine Auswahl aus seinen Predigten, Andachten und Schriften. Band 1-4, Erlenbach-Zürich und Leipzig, 1925-1932