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As I sat searching for a theme for my weekly newspaper column, numerous topics swirled and my mind kept spinning.
So many topics, so little time. Literally so little time right then, since I was trying to ready my home for the arrival of family for a long-awaited visit. So of all the possibilities in my whirlwind of ideas, I plucked “family.”
Many people recently traveled to reunite with loved ones during the holiday season. Imagine that: family ties so strong that people brave the elements, drive through snow, rain, and wind, or determine to stand in long, sometimes very long, lines at airports only to possibly endure delays, difficulties and adversity.
The Baha’i teachings say:
The life of a married couple should resemble the life of the angels in heaven—a life full of joy and spiritual delight, a life of unity and concord, a friendship both mental and physical. The home should be orderly and well-organized. Their ideas and thoughts should be like the rays of the sun of truth and the radiance of the brilliant stars in the heavens. Even as two birds they should warble melodies upon the branches of the tree of fellowship and harmony. They should always be elated with joy and gladness and be a source of happiness to the hearts of others. They should set an example to their fellow-men, manifest true and sincere love towards each other and educate their children in such a manner as to blazon the fame and glory of their family. – From a talk of Abdu’l-Baha in Family Life, a compilation of the Universal House of Justice.
If a family fulfills that vision, of course they’d obviously make supreme efforts to get together on special occasions even if their personal circumstances mean they live far from each other.
Part of what helps maintain such strong bonds is the way the parents raise their children, which determines how family members relate to each other. Abdu’l-Baha explained:
According to the teachings of Baha’u’llah the family, being a human unit, must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother—none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 168.
If we’d just extrapolate that idea to the greater family—the human family—just consider what changes we’d see in society:
Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered. – Ibid., p. 157.
This is why Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
When you love a member of your family or a compatriot, let it be with a ray of the Infinite Love! Let it be in God, and for God! Wherever you find the attributes of God love that person, whether he be of your family or of another. Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, colour or shade of political opinion. Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity.
You will be servants of God, who are dwelling near to Him, His divine helpers in the service, ministering to all Humanity. All Humanity! Every human being! Never forget this! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 38.
Let’s all try this. Let’s determine in the new year to plant seeds of love for our family: our immediate family, our blood relatives, our neighbors, the people of our town, our state, our nation, the world. God loves each and every soul, so we should, too. We can change the world from a weed patch into a rose garden—with love.