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As a little girl I didn’t know much about religion, except that we were Christians and my mother said that God was love and that He loved everyone.
When I got a bit older and started going to a formal church, Jesus was the only prophet I ever heard about. From what I was told, God seemed to only truly love the Christians because they were the only ones who would be “saved.”
This didn’t seem right. It was definitely not what my mother had taught me. As I got older it became even more glaringly preposterous and false. I remember learning the song:
Jesus loves the little children.
All the little children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
So did that mean that God loved His creation of all backgrounds, but the Christians more than others? If you could only get into heaven if you were Christian, that didn’t sound like a very loving God to me—and what about the majority of the people on the planet who weren’t Christians? Were they just all misguided and doomed?
Fortunately, when I began to study the teachings of the Baha’i Faith at age 14, at my mother’s suggestion, it all started to make sense. I realized that God loves all of us unconditionally. I learned that in all the major religions the spiritual teachings are essentially the same, and that was a great source of comfort. There didn’t need to be “us and them.” God loved all of us, without exception:
I am alike for all! I know not hate, I know not favour! What is made is Mine! But them that worship Me with love, I love; They are in Me, and I in them! – Hinduism
I have loved you with an everlasting love. – Jeremiah, 31:3.
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works. – Judaism
O Son of Man! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.
In the Baha’i teachings, I learned that God’s love for His creation is not conditional on religion, race, gender, or any other criteria. We don’t need to reach a spiritual degree of enlightenment or any other qualification to be loved by our Creator. If we shut ourselves out for fear of being unworthy, we will be unaware of His abiding love all around us at all times:
My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find me near unto thee. – Ibid., p. 6.
My wise friend, a deeply spiritual woman named Ramona Brown in her 80’s, shared with me this insight. As I experienced many tests at the turbulent age of 16 and talked with her about it, she said my pain was actually a good thing. Having met with Abdu’l-Baha, she had many wonderful encounters and insights to share. She told me, “This means God really has His eyes on you now!” Ramona said that the hardships in our lives are signs of God’s love, because they pull us closer to Him. Without God’s love for us in the form of trials we could never grow and reach our potential, so they are in fact the greatest sign of His love and mercy.When I was younger I thought that if I was a “good girl” that God would love me and good things would come my way. This was somewhat true, but it meant that when bad things happened to me, I wasn’t worthy of God’s love. It took a conversation with a dear friend to see that God does show His love for us with all His wonderful blessings in our lives, but that He also shows His love when bad things happen.
The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes… Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties…. Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows. Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 41.
God loves us, all of us, no matter who we are. He knows we are imperfect and will make mistakes, but He never stops loving us for even a moment. When we allow ourselves to feel this love it empowers us. We feel good about ourselves, and we can do anything. I think that the world would move miles closer to heaven if we could remember this simple reality: God loves you unconditionally. You are love.