Have you ever shared your deepest beliefs with others? That revealing process, apt to be a new experience for many, can teach you a great deal about yourself.
Like many people, I intensely dislike the feeling I get when someone forces me to listen to and accept their religious beliefs. That’s why I was relieved when I learned that Baha’u’llah instructed the Baha’is never to proselytize or impose their Faith on others:
The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain a hearing, even as the cup-bearer, who proffereth not his cup till he findeth a seeker, and the lover who crieth not out from the depths of his heart until he gazeth upon the beauty of his beloved. Wherefore sow the seeds of wisdom and knowledge in the pure soil of the heart, and keep them hidden, till the hyacinths of divine wisdom spring from the heart and not from mire and clay. – The Hidden Words, pp. 34-35.
Baha’is do not try to push their religious beliefs on anyone – either by proselytizing, forced conversion or any kind of coercion. In fact, you could call the Baha’i Faith “the voluntary religion,” because becoming a Baha’is is entirely up to you, and no one else.
But the purpose of religion is to advance social order, to build the kingdom of God on earth — so teaching others about it is essential. “God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds,” Baha’u’llah explains.
So how do Baha’is proclaim the Baha’i message without proselytizing?
Baha’is try to teach their Faith through their actions. When asked about the best way to spread the Baha’i teachings, Abdu’l-Baha replied:
By deeds. This way is open to all, and deeds are understood by all. Join yourselves to those who work for the poor, the weak and the unfortunate; this is greatly to be commended. To teach by words requires the skill of a wise physician. He does not offer help to those who do not want treatment. Do not press help on those who do not need your help. – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 98.
Baha’i teaching work differs from the evangelizing or missionary work of many other religious communities. Baha’is do not hawk our religion on street corners or press our beliefs on anyone. Nor do we say things that people are not ready to hear. We respect the timing and speed of each individual’s search. Again, Abdu’l-Baha advises:
As to the fundamentals of teaching the Faith: know thou that delivering the Message can be accomplished only through goodly deeds and spiritual attributes, an utterance that is crystal clear and the happiness reflected from the face of that one who is expounding the Teachings. It is essential that the deeds of the teacher should attest the truth of his words. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 174.
There is no force in Baha’u’llah’s religion, and no pressure exerted on anyone to join. Typically, Baha’is simply invite interested friends to their home once a month, share some of their excitement about their spiritual discoveries, and answer whatever questions their friends may have. This happens in a spirit of loving service to their friends – and lets them determine the pace. If they want to know more, the Baha’is dearly love to share Baha’u’llah’s profound, powerful message of unity and peace.