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Justice, that fundamental principle of the Baha’i teachings, depends on reward and punishment.
Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164.
The Baha’i teachings call upon humanity to establish order in the world based upon justice and on the principle of reward and punishment. The principle of reward and punishment also holds true in our personal lives. “The essence of wisdom,” Baha’u’llah wrote, “is the fear of God, the dread of His scourge and punishment, and the apprehension of His justice and decree.” – Ibid., p. 155.
It might seem contradictory that we should both love and fear God. If God is compassionate and merciful, then why fear Him? Again we turn to the example of a loving parent. The parent sincerely wants what is best for the child and does not desire to inflict punishment. Yet sometimes it is necessary for the child’s own good, and in fair retribution for a wrong. God can forgive any sin, yet it is foolish to assume that our actions can ever have no consequences. Indeed, the Baha’i teachings say, the results of our actions become immediately apparent the moment we depart this world:
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. Well is it with him that hath quaffed the choice and incorruptible wine of faith through the gracious favor and the manifold bounties of Him Who is the Lord of all Faiths…. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 171.
When humanity as a whole develops the fear of God, true justice becomes possible. Baha’u’llah wrote:
The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 27.
Justice, however, does not only apply to humanity itself. The Baha’i teachings say that our Creator has promised, in a just, everlasting covenant with humankind, never to leave us bereft of divine guidance. Since justice hinges on both fairness and on knowledge, Baha’is believe that God will continue to guide humanity by revealing divine knowledge throughout successive ages through the appearance of more prophets:
The Divine Messengers have been sent down, and their Books were revealed, for the purpose of promoting the knowledge of God, and of furthering unity and fellowship amongst men… Say: “O God, my God! Attire mine head with the crown of justice, and my temple with the ornament of equity. Thou, verily, art the Possessor of all gifts and bounties.”
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 12-13.
God will never abandon us, the Baha’i teachings promise, for He will always send us His divine prophets, messengers and teachers to uplift our souls and guide our actions.