In time of human peril, brought on by nature or man, when frightened, confused and discouraged, we often raise our voices to God to ask for assistance.
When it does not seem to come, as expected, we raise our voices again, this time questioning why God hasn’t listened to us. For some, this leads to anger and even doubt about the existence of God and His love. Have you ever considered that God has listened and we have not?
O Son of Man! Upon the tree of effulgent glory I have hung for thee the choicest fruits, wherefore hast thou turned away and contented thyself with that which is less good? Return then unto that which is better for thee in the realm on high. – The Hidden Words, p. 9.
Baha’is believe that a new covenant has been established between God and humankind, in which He promises not to leave us solely to ourselves without the benefit of His divine guidance.
Because of this covenant, God has sent humanity a succession of prophets and messengers at periodic intervals, to different locations in the world, to provide the spiritual and material teachings that allow us to advance ourselves and civilization.
These messengers establish the world’s great religions. The Baha’i teachings say that each of these religions represent sequential stages in the revelation of God’s will and purpose for humanity. The most recent messenger of God was Baha’u’llah, who in 1863 declared his station and founded the Baha’i Faith. Like all messengers of God, Baha’u’llah’s life was filled with sacrifice and suffering. In spite of that suffering, Baha’u’llah told us that humanity has collectively come of age. As foretold in the sacred scriptures of the past, the time has now arrived for uniting all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society.
Having reached maturation, it’s childlike to expect answers and solutions to simply fall into our laps without investigation. How easy it is to find someone to “tell us” what is truth, and then passively believe. Jesus, however, over 2000 years ago espouses a higher level of participation on our part:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. – Mathew 7:7-8.
Ask, seek and knock are all verbs—action words. So, we must do the asking, seeking and knocking, and not depend on others to take those actions for us. This pursuit Baha’is refer to as the independent investigation of truth. Rather than simply accepting or rejecting your inherited beliefs, the Baha’i teachings say, every person has the right and the responsibility to investigate the truth and determine what they believe for themselves.
Exploring our inner spiritual reality leads us to understand that we have an active role to play, rather than simply being swept along in the torrent of unfolding human events. The Baha’i teachings clarify that role:
How excellent, how honorable is man if he arises to fulfill his responsibilities; how wretched and contemptible, if he shuts his eyes to the welfare of society and wastes his precious life in pursuing his own selfish interests and personal advantages. Supreme happiness is man’s, and he beholds the signs of God in the world and in the human soul, if he urges on the steed of high endeavor in the arena of civilization and justice. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 4.
Baha’is believe that God has heard our cries for assistance, and has decreed for us a divine civilization based on love, unity and peace. We can facilitate the process with heroic effort, or allow it to grindingly unfold on its own with the unpleasant natural consequences of our own inaction.
Abdu’l-Baha called each one of us individually to action:
Verily, God has chosen you for His love and knowledge; God has chosen you for the worthy service of unifying mankind; God has chosen you for the purpose of investigating reality and promulgating international peace; God has chosen you for the progress and development of humanity, for spreading and proclaiming true education, for the expression of love toward your fellow creatures and the removal of prejudice; God has chosen you to blend together human hearts and give light to the human world. The doors of His generosity are wide, wide open to us; but we must be attentive, alert and mindful, occupied with service to all mankind, appreciating the bestowals of God and ever conforming to His will. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 335-336.
When divine guidance is accepted and the human spirit is inspired, we can break with the dogmas of the past and elevate our knowledge, thinking and behaviors to create and sustain a divine civilization; one based on unity in diversity, justice, equality, and moral leadership. We will then assuredly draw to us the blessings of God and His protection. Within the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah has provided a plan for concrete action, full of hope and promise—but it does require humanity to listen.