“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
God calls us into fellowship. The example of Jesus obliges us to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16). This giving of our lives consists of mutual service – in being there for one another.
Kluge’s reproach of “community versus private life” completely misses the essence of Christian fellowship. Nobody would consider the question of “family versus private life” to be justified because family life is considered part of a person’s private life. Our family life is the community life. We share our lives with the brothers and sisters not with unknown, inscrutable institutions.
Jesus’ “private life” consisted of being together with the disciples. Paul became to the Christians “gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.” (1 Thess 2:7). So we spend our private life together with brothers and sisters who have become close and dear to us through our common decision to follow Jesus.
The difference to a “natural” family lies in the different basis. It is not common ancestry which unites us in the community, but our common faith. Through this deeper basis our shared life is deeper than in a “normal” family.
The relationship which dominates everything in the life of a Christian is the relationship with God which has a formative effect on all other relationships. A relationship in which God is not in the centre loses its meaning. The relationships that are shaped by God grow deeper.
The repeated slanderous claim that, “praying or reading from the Bible in private is not desirable”, does not make it any more correct. The community lives from the relationship each individual has with God. Likewise, each individual is strengthened in his own personal devotion to God through the community life. If somebody’s interest in the Bible is too small, not even the community maintain his spiritual life. That is why personal prayer and Bible reading is an indispensable basis of the spiritual life of each individual as well as of the community.
Kluge gained a “pitiless, uncharitable and fanatic impression” from us and concluded that “the Group appears to be completely lacking warmth”. Impressions are always subjective and are strongly dependant on the expectations of the observer. Other people gained a different impression. Moreover, this impression contradicts the accusation of “love bombing”. When somebody examines objectively he remains unimpressed by “impressions” and considers the teaching and life on the basis of the Bible.
It is certainly true that we do not always say what people want to hear. We do not keep silent when it comes to exposing unbiblical teachings and unbiblical ways of life. Precisely in this way we point people to the life that Jesus has called us to.
The “warmth and friendliness”, that “do exist within the Group”, are what we wish to share with every person. But a certain common ground is necessary for that. For us, the terms, “brother” and “sister”, are not just religious clichés, but a reality that we experience every day and which we also express to one another through physical contact. Exaggerated politeness is alien to us, not, however, respect for our brother’s personality. A brief example can illustrate the point of how (earlier in practice, but today only in the writings of “holy” founders of Orders) people’s private life was handled elsewhere:
“Let a straw mattress, a blanket, coverlet and pillow, suffice for their bedding. This the Abbot shall frequently examine, to prevent the vice of proprietorship; and if any one be discovered to possess anything which he hath not received from the Abbot, let him be subjected to the severest correction.” (“The Rule of our most Holy Father Benedict”, Chapter 55, CCEL)