” Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.” (Colossians 4:5)
Once again in this section our critic mainly repeats the same reproaches he made in previous chapters. This leads us to a certain amount of repetition here as well.
Even among non-Christians it is true that with every new friendship and integration into a new circle of friends a person’s “communication skills” change. When a person gets to know new friends, his conversations will be characterised by new topics. How much more does encountering God shape a person?
The first Christians also proclaimed:
“For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20
The Kingdom of God, and following Jesus becomes the determining content of our life. Trivialities such as stamp collecting or football are simply not an important topic of conversation anymore. It may seem suspicious for a non-Christian who does not have God in the centre of his life that “religion takes a decisive position in the member’s life and thoughts.” But what else characterises a Christian, if not the endeavour to allow his whole life and thinking to be determined by Christ?
The central position God has in our lives does not mean that we do not have any other topics of conversation. We are not apolitical, cultureless and scientifically ignorant people.
But we see everything in relation to faith in Christ.
We do not use the tactics we are accused of, such as, “During the recruitment the group wants to give a good impression to the parents of a prospective member,” after which, “contacts with people outside the sect are reduced to a minimum or broken off completely.” We have nothing to hide. Each person who really wants to get to know us has the opportunity to spend time together with us and to get to know us just as we are. Our guests have the opportunity to get to know our community life from the inside. We do not want to put on a religious show, but to allow each person to take part in our lives from the beginning as much as it is possible (compare 1 Thess. 2:8). We do not want to give anyone a false impression of ourselves – neither better, nor worse. We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus (2 Cor 4:5). Each person can test for himself to what extent our life is in line with the requirements of Jesus.
Family members also have the chance to take a closer look at our life. There have even been cases where parents have followed their children’s decision to be part of the community because they were not prejudiced, but rather experienced the working of God in their children and in the community. They recognised that the changes their children were going through were not the product of psychological manipulation, but the work of God.
Unfortunately cases where other family members also decided to live a life of discipleship are an exception. Due to differing aims in life, the basis for committed relationships diminishes and contact to one’s family becomes weaker. This is not the result of refined manipulation, it is a natural development.
Moreover, this fully corresponds to what Jesus said.
“Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mk 10:29-30)
The passage Kluge mentions in 2 Cor 6:14-18 does not touch this problem. As mentioned above (“The lifestyle of the Group”), 2 Cor 6 is only concerned with the impossibility of spiritual fellowship between believers and unbelievers.
As for the reproach that we ignore the fact that Jesus shared meals with sinners:
Jesus came to call everyone. He called sinners and he ate together with them. But Jesus never took part in their sins. Where ever Jesus was, God was in the centre. He brought the love of God to those who had been written off by the Pharisees. The kingdom of God was in the centre of his life and actions and all his conversations. Many sinners seized this opportunity offered by Jesus and repented. Yet Jesus never confirmed people’s sins with his presence. Or does Kluge really think that Jesus would have chatted with people about football and car racing, gone to the cinema with them, and perhaps chuckled to himself at their dirty jokes? When people had things on their mind other than God, Jesus also saw no basis for a conversation.
“For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” (Matt 21:32)
The sinners believed John and later they believed Jesus even more. That was the basis for further fellowship.
“A Christian who does not convert after having contact with the Holic-Group is considered worse than an atheist who has not yet had a chance to absorb the Gospel” is another reproach levelled against us.
To this briefly:
1. Someone who has already become a Christian does not need to convert. We have never required a Christian to convert. As we have repeatedly explained, we are glad about every Christian God leads to us.
2. A pseudo-Christian who refuses to repent to God (not to a non-existent “Holic-Group”) has put himself in a worse situation than a person who has yet to hear the message (whether religious or atheist). If anyone refuses the call of God, he hardens himself against God, making it much harder for himself to listen to a further call of God than for someone who has not yet heard anything.
3. We profess along with Paul that every person can recognise God and that there cannot therefore be any such thing as an honest, sincere atheist.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
We must therefore unfortunately assume that atheists have already made serious decisions against God, which does not hinder us from also reaching out to atheists.
The criticism quoted here presupposes that we endeavour for atheists, showing that Kluge’s assertion that “missionary work with atheists is unknown” is not the reality.
It is interesting that Kluge praises the “members of the sect” for something that he would attribute to but a few of his Roman Catholic brothers in faith when he writes, “Members of the sect would rather not answer a question than be drawn into a lie.”
Whoever believes in the truth also lives in it.
In response to the criticism that we have a lack of “social welfare activities outside the Group”: It is correct that we do not see social welfare activities as our priority, but not because we consider these activities to be fundamentally wrong. Several of our brothers and sisters are involved in “social welfare” in their jobs. In addition, we are well aware of the great social injustice that exists in many parts of the world and the severe material need many people face, and for this reason we give financial support to several charities. The principle duty of a Christian though, lies elsewhere. Jesus did not send his disciples out to remove social deprivation, but to preach the Gospel. The fight against material poverty is an important task. The fight against spiritual poverty is even more urgent. This is, on the one hand, because a life without God has consequences not only for this earthly life, but it also separates people from the source of eternal happiness for all eternity. On the other hand it is because sin is so often the cause of social injustice. A Christian does not oppress his fellow-man, nor does he exploit him. Thus evangelism also indirectly serves to remove injustice. The sharing among Christians and their modest lifestyle are an example for those around them. In the life of the community it should be visible how it could be everywhere, if everyone followed God.
With great conviction we reject the principle that we have read in the handbook of a Roman Catholic sub-organisation, The Legion of Mary: “Material relief must not be given — even in the smallest ways; and experience shows that it is necessary to mention that old clothing belongs to this category.” (The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, CONCILIUM LEGIONIS MARIAE, Dublin 1993, p.291)
Thankfully in the countries where we know brothers and sisters there is a certain amount of social security (even if some politicians – often members of so-called “Christian” parties that are in reality capitalistic parties – zealously work to dismantle this security). Thus the urgency of social help is less than in biblical times. As there are so few of us, even if we were to concentrate solely on social welfare activities, many problems would remain that we could not solve. The fact that there are so few of us means that it is so much more important for us to focus on our evangelistic activities. Even morally conscious non-Christians can supply physical bread to eat. The “bread of life” was given by Jesus to his disciples for them to feed the people. We eagerly strive to do the same, as even our critic admits calling it a “strong drive to convert”.
About our mini-vans: Fellowship and evangelism are at the centre of our lives. This also means that we do a lot of travelling. Over the years we have seen that the most effective way of doing this is using vans which can also be used to live in temporarily. Our vans are financed exclusively out of our own pockets. We receive no state support or otherwise. We are not (nor do we want to be) any kind of registered, recognised, religious organisation, thus we do not enjoy any kind of tax-breaks. The fact that we are able to afford our vans, which have been internally modified to make them useful, not “respectable”, is a result of sharing. Contrary to the widely held belief that community of property leads to poverty, it is quite logical that a simple lifestyle combined with the practice of sharing all possessions leaves some money over for the acquisition of assets used by all.