The call of Baha’u’llah is addressed to every individual who desires the joy and peace that come from recognition of God’s messenger for this day.
To be a Baha’i is not to abandon one’s previous religion—rather it is to recognize the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises, as well as to acknowledge the spiritual journey of all humanity towards this long-awaited moment. To be a Baha’i is to believe in humanity’s divinely-ordained destiny to live in universal peace and brotherhood.
Those who come to accept Baha’u’llah as God’s messenger for today are called upon to live up to the highest standards of conduct in every aspect of their private and public lives. Above all is his constant admonishment to make service to humanity the primary goal of one’s life. He repeatedly counsels his followers to show forth love and to exercise wisdom in all dealings with others. A few passages from his writings will suffice to provide an example of the high standards the Baha’is are called to uphold:
It is Our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of all goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind. Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbors. Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world. He, verily, is the All-Bountiful, the Gracious, the Most High. If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship. Thus counselleth you the All-Knowing, the Faithful. We shall always be with you; if We inhale the perfume of your fellowship, Our heart will assuredly rejoice, for naught else can satisfy Us. To this beareth witness every man of true understanding. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 315-316.
In other places Baha’u’llah wrote:
O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behaviour. Valiant acts will ensure the triumph of this Cause, and a saintly character will reinforce its power. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 86.
O peoples of the world! Forsake all evil, hold fast that which is good. Strive to be shining examples unto all mankind, and true reminders of the virtues of God amidst men. He that riseth to serve My Cause should manifest My wisdom, and bend every effort to banish ignorance from the earth. Be united in counsel, be one in thought. Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest. Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss. Adversity is followed by success and rejoicings follow woe. Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. Beware lest ye sow tares of dissension among men or plant thorns of doubt in pure and radiant hearts. – Ibid., p. 138.
Spiritual Transformation as a Process
The lofty spiritual standards taught by Baha’u’llah may seem impossible to achieve, but to become a Baha’i does not require one to be perfect or morally superior to others. As we have already seen in previous essays, the Baha’i teachings emphasize that personal transformation is a never-ending process. To become a Baha’i is an important milestone in that process. It involves sincere effort—prayer, study of the sacred writings, and action—over the course of an entire lifetime. Indeed, even after this life we can continue to improve and develop our spiritual qualities as our souls progress in the other world. Baha’is are assured that a merciful God looks more to our faith and sincerity of effort than to the actual achievement of perfection.
The Baha’i teachings envision a global society that will increasingly come to abide by Baha’u’llah’s spiritual principles. To realize that goal, humanity needs to cultivate a world-embracing vision wherein each person strives not merely for his own benefit, but for the benefit of all. In the future we can imagine humanity as a whole attaining greater and greater spiritual capacity as centuries and ages unfold. Baha’u’llah assures us that God will continue to send prophets and messengers in every age to guide humanity forward in its spiritual evolution.