Since we talked on the phone on Saturday night, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this letter, so I’m glad I’m doing it. I do find it hard talking on the phone, and I know it’s hard for you to get a hold of me and to know when a good time to call is. I do move around a fair bit, and it’s hard to say when a good time to call is, but I’d like to keep in touch more. Dad and I have an arrangement to try to write a letter to each other once a month, more of course if we want. I’d like to do the same with you, if you want. It’s good for me to keep a tab when I actually write a letter because time goes by and I realize it could have been many months since I last wrote one.
I also want to tell you more about what my life in the Community means for me, and the faith I hold in living this way. It is true, I can’t really tell you when I’ll be coming back to Australia or to New Zealand. It could be next week, it could be next month, or a few months from now, or next year, or I might not be back for another five years or more. But it’s because I surrender my life to be this way, to be used according to the needs that arise for the building up of the Community. At the beginning of November last year I was working as normal on one of the jobs we were doing at the time, and I got a call from a friend and shepherd and crew head that the community in Sydney had asked me to come back to Australia to provide further support for the mobile café season.
It just so happened that the return ticket I had was for the next day. So I could have gone back to Australia just like that (nobody expected it to be so soon). But it was thought I should have time to say goodbye to everyone in the communities over here, so I was going to stay for another week, the latest date to which my return ticket could be stretched.
At that time we were very busy on the jobs we had, so the plan for me had been to stay for another six weeks, so I could go back just before the Woodford Folk Festival started. My personal desire was to stay here because I really like what I’m doing and the friends I live and work with, so I wrote a short e-mail to one of the responsible men in the community in Australia, and in counsel with other responsible people down there, it was decided that I could stay. In the meantime, we were still looking for a ticket for me to go back to Australia. One of the tickets we looked at, and which wasn’t out of the question, was to fly to Sydney via Auckland on so I could have spent some time with you in New Zealand before heading back to Australia.
I am writing this as an example of an aspect of how my life and all of our lives are directed in the Community. My life is directed, but I’m free to express my desires as to which way it could go. This is what I freely choose to surrender my life to — to be under the authority of other human beings. I’m a disciple. A disciple is one who is under the discipline of another. A disciple comes when he is called and goes where he is sent.
Many people cringe at hearing this because they have a mistrust of authority. In many ways, it is understandable that people would mistrust authority, because many people in positions of authority have misused the authority given them. For example, politicians promise one thing but do another, husbands are disrespectful and abusive to their wives, many religious leaders and priests live hidden, perverted lives. But probably in a deeper way, people mistrust authority because of the rebellion that works inside of them. They hate being told what to do. This is a deep, deep issue, and lies at the heart of the problems in the world today. This rebellion, this hatred of being told what to do, comes down to not wanting to surrender one’s own life to the will of another, and ultimately to the will of God.
This is one reason I believe that some people are suspicious of our lives in the Community. Some people are skeptical because the experiences they’ve had with authority in their lives have led them to distrust the motives of anyone who would tell another person what to do. They might cringe at hearing God being called “Father” because when they think of a father they think of a tyrant who tore them down all their life. Some might cringe at submitting to men because the men in their lives were untrustworthy or selfish or uncommitted. But when they see the life of a people who love authority and whose authority loves them, they change, let down their guard, and start trusting that this authority could be towards them, for them, to build them up, encourage them, and instill worth into them.
This is what I experience every day in the Community. The people who have authority over my life are also my friends, even my best friends, that I can trust enough to lay my life bare before them — confess to them what works inside of me, even if it’s shameful or embarrassing. They don’t hold it against me because they have compassion. They’ve experienced and can relate to the same things that I experience. They are shepherds. A shepherd cares for the sheep. The sheep love the voice of the shepherd. In the Community, we are all encouraged and raised up to be shepherds to one another.
Then there are other people who are suspicious of our life in the Community because they are unwilling to surrender their own opinions or beliefs or ambitions, even if they recognize that a life in the Community would offer them a greater chance to learn to love than continuing to lead the life they are leading. I’ve chosen a path in life in which I can be devoted to learn to love, and to learn what it means to love. This is what I recognized when I first met the Community — a people who, despite their faults and failures, were devoted to love one another and increase in that love. This kind of love is an action — it’s more than good feelings. It means to direct your will, even despite adverse circumstances, to look out for someone else’s interests more than your own. Yahshua, our Master, said, “No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
Laying down my life means laying aside my own self interest for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 5:15). That self interest is my selfishness, my pride, the things in me that desire to exult myself over others, that want to defend myself, not to come under them to encourage them and build them up to be all they are created to be. This is to love as Yahshua loved, according to the unique and special character God has given each one, to fully express His character.
Yahshua was the greatest example of love expressed by a man. He laid down His life for His friends, even to the point of dying and suffering and in death for three days and nights so that those who, like myself, didn’t deserve it could be reconciled to be His friends (those who obey Him) and receive the gift of the eternal life. Eternal life can only be given to those who are willing to surrender themselves to being conformed to the image and character of God. Why would God want to fill eternity with something other than His character of love?
Eternal life is not a selfish thing; it’s not about going to heaven someday but doing what you like in this life now. Eternal life is for a purpose — to fulfill all that God ever desired for His creation for all eternity. His friends are those who are under His authority. We wake up every morning and seek Him from our hearts, saying, “Father, may your will be done; may Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” And we cry out to Him to deliver us from the evil one. There is an “evil one” and he persuades man to look out for his own selfish interests and follow in his ways, the chief of which is pride.
There was a man in Yahshua’s time, commonly referred to in many Bibles as “the rich young ruler.” He ran up to Yahshua and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
This man was wealthy and seemingly God-fearing, having obeyed many of God’s commandments, such as not murdering, stealing, committing adultery, bearing false witness, and honoring his father and mother. But Yahshua said, “One thing you lack. Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.”
This wealthy young man didn’t follow Yahshua. He went away grief stricken because he couldn’t bear to give up all his wealth of possessions. He had recognized that Yahshua could give him the answer to his search for eternal life. But when it came down to it, the rich young man hated Yahshua’s authority. He hated God’s authority because Yahshua’s authority was God’s authority. That young man wanted eternal life, but he couldn’t bear to do what it took to get it. He didn’t want to be told what to do. People have to “get it” that this precious life they have is not given to them so that they can seek their own pleasure and revel in their selfishness. It’s given to them so their life could be useful to God. Most people will refuse to come under God’s authority so as to be useful to Him.
I would say that it is a mark of many, if not all of the world’s religions, particularly today, that they persuade people that they are doing God’s will without coming under His authority in any practical way. The tangible, demonstrable way of coming under God’s authority is to come under the authority of the fellow believers who share the same destiny as you. I believe that if God had a people who would hear and obey His voice, then He would speak to them. That means they would be worth listening to because it would be God speaking to you through them, just as He spoke to mankind through Yahshua. Trusting God means trusting in your fellow believers because, sharing in the same faith, you trust that God has entrusted Himself to them.
I meet many people from many diverse religious professions who come to visit us in the communities, from conservative Christians to New Agers, and people who follow Eastern religious traditions, and I would say they have this trait in common: they don’t have any significant or outstanding relationships with their fellow believers beyond what those who don’t profess to know God have with one another. A common theme they might share is, “I feel as if God is leading me to go to college now,” or “I feel as if God is not wanting me to be too hard on myself right now; He thinks it’s good for me to be with my old friends at the pub,” or “I feel as if God wants me to help the impoverished people in Calcutta right now.”
I can relate to these ways because I have very much been that way in the past. But it is very subjective. It’s not laying your life bare before your friends and trusting them enough to come under their authority as to how your life should best be used by God. It makes for a potentially very selfish life while claiming to be doing God’s will, but really, you’re doing your own will. This brings shame to God’s name. This is a reason why many people say they don’t believe in God — because they see people who say they believe in God living selfish, self-centered lives. People who do hold religious belief are the most accountable God because they are saying they know Him (John 9:41; 1 John 2:4), the Creator of the universe, and implicitly communicating that the way they live their life is how God is.
I am an accountable human being. So are you, because we both claim to know, to some extent (and possibly more so than we think), what God is like and what His will is for the people of the earth. We’ll be judged to a greater degree than many people who don’t claim to know God. Those of us in the Community are the most accountable human beings who will be judged. One of my desires is that I would grow up and become mature, in all that means, because a mature person takes accountability for the wrongs he has done in his life.
This trait (which I believe people of many diverse religious beliefs share) of claiming to be doing God’s will while not being surrendering to His authority in any real way is one reason why it takes a community to represent God’s character of love. It takes a community to lay down your life for your friends (those who do His commandments) on a daily basis. This is what Yahshua did as the highest expression of God’s love. He laid down His life for us on the cross and in death by taking upon Himself our sins that we deserved to die and suffer for in death.
Christianity, as a system, is the most wicked religion of all by professing to believe this reality but not living a life in response to it.
It takes a community to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13; 10:25). It takes a community to submit to one another out of reverence for Messiah (Ephesians 5:21). Again, it takes close relationships with your fellow believers, seeing their lives and the fruits of their lives (not a masked, veneered version of it, but an unmasked bareness of what goes on in and with them, the good and the bad — how they react to situations and stressed circumstances) to trust your fellow believers enough to submit to them, because we love God and His Son.
I don’t mean to slam the beliefs of people of other religions by talking about these things, but simply to take hold of the freedom I believe I have to express my faith. I believe the faith I have, along with others in the Community, is secured by what we read in the Bible, but the Bible means nothing apart from seeing a people living out a life it describes in reality — in a tangible way. I am encouraged because I see a people living out what I read in the Bible. I also see us doing something, then notice that the Bible talks about that same practice. And where we lack, I trust that our God is bringing us into the fullness of His commandments because I see in the people around me a people who are learning to hear and obey His commandments — hearing His commandments and bringing them to reality in their lives.
We don’t come into the Community as perfect human beings. We have many faults, but we are being saved from the wrong ways in us, growing into a mature people as we increase in our love for one another, representing the character of our God. The Bible was never intended to be used to take verses from, throwing them around, saying this and saying that, apart from a true life to back up the words. The words shouldn’t go beyond the deeds, except to take hold of the vision of things we are to come into in the future.
The Bible was written by a people, by various human beings inspired by God, for a people — a people to bring to life the words it talks about. It doesn’t make any sense apart from that. That’s why it has led to so much confusion. That’s why many hold it in such low regard, not considering it worthy to be obeyed, because those who claim to know it don’t live in any differently from people who do not claim to know it. The result of people who claim to know the Bible and God apart from being in unity and loving one another has been devastating to human lives and instrumental in bringing about the condition of the earth today.
Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Messiah Yahshua…”
I’m in a place where I can change — be saved — to be this way. This is how I want to be and this is part of what I believe true, meaningful life is. It takes a community to mature into this, to be like Yahshua, who represented the character of our Creator.
I don’t hate people, but I do hate many of the things people have done and are doing to God, this planet, and other people. Where I have hated people by my actions — by ignoring them or reacting in hurtful ways, by being selfish — these are the ways I am being saved from. Yahshua was not this way. He loved people, was fascinated with people, was attentive to people, and had compassion and understanding for them. I want to be saved to be like Him. I don’t see all the wrongs I’ve done in my life, how I’ve hurt people, had bad motives, etc., but for what I can and cannot see, I am sorry for the ways in which I’ve hurt you.
I’m not sorry for choosing to be part of the Communities, but I’m sorry for not hearing and obeying you as a child and teenager, and for not respecting you by how I lived my life before I came to the Community. I can and do make many mistakes now, too. I’m sorry for not keeping in touch more. Again, I’d like to write more letters to you, if you want to with me.
Disobedience of children to their parents is a serious crime before God, and its prevalence is devastating in these modern times (2 Timothy 3:2). I’m so thankful you’re my Mum and how you always cared for me the way you did and encouraged me to be a responsible, caring person. I regret not taking on in myself the good qualities I see in you.
I don’t hate people, but I do hate the world. I believe the world system tears down the conscience of man — his inherent knowledge of right and wrong — and promotes lawlessness before God. Not just the secular side of the world, but even more so the religious, people who claim to believe in God, but who say in their hearts that you don’t have to do what He says, but you can do what you want. They are essentially saying there is no accountability, no judgment before God (Psalms 14:1; 53:1), but that totally denies God’s character of love, that He will purify the earth by judging all people in righteousness and truth. He will give to both the righteous and the wicked what they deserve.
I believe that the spiritual ruler of the world embodies all that is hostile to God. I hate the sway of the world on people’s lives. It demoralizes people, causing people to become less than what they were created to be, persuading them to be proud, to exalt themselves and seek their own glory, to look out for their own selfish interests, and to squash people’s desire to seek true meaning in life and use their ability to choose to do what it takes to find and obtain it. It hurts me to see people duped in such a way, as if they’ve been given counterfeit money and persuaded to believe it’s worth something, but it’s worth nothing — no, not a thing — not a thing to me and to us as a people.
I believe that God does not and cannot abide in such a place. God’s Spirit is pure and undefiled and can abide in a people who desire to do His will. 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for all that in the world — the love of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life — is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
So, the greatest thing I believe I can do for people outside the Community is to lay down my life for my friends in the Community, because that’s the greatest love (John 15:13), and people who love one another are the witness that people need to see in order to believe in Yahshua. To believe in Yahshua means to obey Him, which takes forsaking everything to do what He says. Doing what He says produces a life — a true life where you have true friends who are honest with one another, speaking the truth in love, a place where relationships are based on encouraging and building one another up.
In the Community we live by our hearts, not by principle, or by laws and rules. We are not forced to do anything. But, our heart’s desire is to obey His commandments in the hope that we can become like Him, bringing honor to His name on the earth. Obeying His commandments to become like Him — that’s where eternal life is, because we are being transformed into His image, which is worthy to pass through into eternal life. That’s what believing in Yahshua means. Finding people with a heart to believe in Yahshua in this way is what I have given my life to — laying down my life with a people who lay down their lives so more people can believe and lay down their lives in the same way. This kind of love expresses the character of our God, that He loves the world so much that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish that have eternal life (John 3:16,36).
It hurts me to see people so damaged and so far removed from what I’m discovering God that intends people to be like. People’s pride, self interest, their desire to do their own thing leads to so much hurt, loneliness, and broken relationships, on a personal level and on a larger scale. This is leads to the wars, bloodshed, and oppression that have marked history and continues to mark the condition of the earth today. It’s man’s selfishness, his sin that leads to his lack of care for his fellow man and for their planet. The same thing that is in every human being is in me. It takes laying hold of the forgiveness that in Yahshua — He forgives us, we can’t forgive ourselves — to forget what lies behind and press on in the hope I’ve received from Him, that I can be saved for my wrong ways, and in His people be changed to become like Him. A people being like Him represents His character of love.
That’s what the name Yahshua means, Yahweh’s Salvation, for He is mighty and powerful to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Most people I meet believe that it’s impossible for people to live in true unity, the same way Yahshua and His Father are one (John 17:21-23), but that is what He commanded us to become so people would believe in Him. I believe it is possible, by believing in the name of Yahshua, that there actually can be one people who are being saved from their selfishness, becoming like Him, being truly set free to truly love as He loved (John 13:34-35). This is what stirs my heart and what I’ve given my life to.
That’s it for now, Mum. I love you so much. Thanks for being my Mum,