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Recently in our interfaith group we talked about the difference between justice and righteousness, and I gained a new understanding about the spiritual meaning of justice.
Our conversations helped me became more clear about the difference between justice in the world and in the teachings of God – and reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Baha’u’llah on the subject:
Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men’s hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother’s milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God’s Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness.
To me, this passage means that we can’t understand justice without embracing the laws of God. When we follow the teachings, commandments, and principles Baha’u’llah has revealed, the justice of God will be made clear to us.
Baha’u’llah also said that this process of the revelation of new divine teachings is not intended to sentence us for punishment – instead, it is meant to guide humankind in the right direction. If we understand that this new set of laws will help us understand justice and to live in truth, then our hearts will be filled with gratitude and rejoice with exceeding gladness.
In another place Baha’u’llah wrote:
One righteous act is endowed with a potency that can so elevate the dust as to cause it to pass beyond the heaven of heavens. It can tear every bond asunder, and hath the power to restore the force that hath spent itself and vanished.
Be pure, O people of God, be pure; be righteous, be righteous …. Say: O people of God! That which can ensure the victory of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, His hosts and helpers on earth, have been set down in the sacred Books and Scriptures, and are as clear and manifest as the sun. These hosts are such righteous deeds, such conduct and character, as are acceptable in His sight. Whoso ariseth, in this Day, to aid Our Cause, and summoneth to his assistance the hosts of a praiseworthy character and upright conduct, the influence flowing from such an action will, most certainly, be diffused throughout the whole world.
This passage tells us how bright the light of righteousness can shine. With a pure heart, righteous acts have the power to illuminate the world. When the outward expression is truthful with the inner heart is pure, righteousness is manifest. Righteous acts are the expression of justice while a man embraces the mother Laws which God revealed. What a pure heart means to me is the pure love of God. Serving the Cause gives us an opportunity to know God and to love Him. It also allows us to practice “letting go” and “selflessness”. Human lower nature tends to be in control and to judge. It tries to be in control to reduce its fear, and be judgmental to hide away its weakness. The lower nature hides fear and weakness for self-protection. Being controlling and judgmental makes our inward and outward reality inconsistent. Bahá’u’lláh said, “The essence of understanding is to testify to one’s poverty, and submit to the Will of the Lord, the Sovereign, the Gracious, the All-Powerful. (Words of Wisdom)” So practicing “let go and let God” will make us less judgmental and accept our own limitations of understanding. It will help us observe God’s actions and know more about God. To know Him makes us able to love Him. This is the way I understand that through the love of God we can be purified and sanctified.
Righteousness is like the light that shines from the spiritual body. But we need to embrace the Mother Laws in order to shine. The Law is truly the bounty of God. We can only see the light and shine it when we make it part of our being. And this is why when following God’s teachings, it is so important to follow the commandments as well. The Law is truly the sign of loving-kindness from God. In his book The Seven Valleys, Baha’u’llah wrote:
In all these journeys the wayfarer must stray not a hair’s breadth from the Law, for this is indeed the secret of the Path and the fruit of the Tree of Truth. And in all these stages he must cling to the robe of obedience to all that hath been enjoined, and hold fast to the cord of shunning all that is forbidden, that he may partake of the cup of the Law and be informed of the mysteries of Truth.
The more we reflect the commandments in our mindset and deeds and seek solutions by applying the principles, we abide by the Laws. This is also our best protection in our spiritual journey.