The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed… – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 169.
Two thoughts occurred to me as I read this passage from the Baha’i teachings—God sees and knows every action committed by every human being; and we will all have to ultimately face whatever we do to ourselves and to others. When I think of cruel acts perpetrated between one human and another, between human and animal, and between humans and the earth itself, I understand that:
There are two sorts of retributory punishments. One is vengeance, the other, chastisement. Man has not the right to take vengeance, but the community has the right to punish the criminal; and this punishment is intended to warn and to prevent so that no other person will dare to commit a like crime. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 268.
I find it a great relief to realize if the individuals causing harm are not chastised and punished in this world, then God will do something about it in the next world.
The other thought: I am 100% responsible for all I “have wrought.” No one else is. Spiritually, I have to take the responsibility for what I do.
If I consider it my objective as a Baha’i to “experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe…,” then I must apply and try to live the teachings that aid me in this endeavor. One such teaching:
Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.
When I try to bring myself to account each day, and I pray for forgiveness, that must mean we’re all imperfectly human and will often fall short and fail:
…Pray to be forgiven, O people, for having failed in your duty towards God, and for having trespassed against His Cause, and be not of the foolish… – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 104.
The act of accountability, which includes explaining my mistakes, my performance and my actions, helps me take an honest look at how I am behaving and thinking in the now–not years ago, not years ahead, but right now, when I have the ability to initiate change more easily and immediately. These powerful quotes on the subject from the Baha’i teachings help keep me honest with myself:
Beseech God to grant thee such mature understanding as to enable thee to distinguish praiseworthy actions from those which merit blame. Peace be upon him who followeth the way of guidance! – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 172.
The whole human race is submerged in the sea of the mercy of the Lord and we are all the sheep of the one divine shepherd. Whatever shortcomings exist among us must be remedied. For example those who are ignorant must be educated so that they may become wise; the sick must be treated until they recover; those who are immature must be trained in order to reach maturity; those asleep must be awakened. All this must be accomplished through love and not through hatred and hostility. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 105.