February is a wintry month and a festive month, where many people celebrate love, kindness, friendship and joy. The greatest love in our universe is the love of God, which forever warms our hearts and souls.
Trying to define “love” — the love of God for man and the love of man for God — is a pathway toward examining our feelings and beliefs toward our Creator. In the Baha’i Writings we find: “There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. The ‘essence’ of all religions is the Love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings.” (’Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p.82)
Appreciating God’s love for us is a huge blessing, and is basically an anchor for our lives. With this love, much is expected of us, and certainly the dynamic that we should love each other, as God loves us, and work toward extending love to all mankind. We can demonstrate our love for our fellow human beings by fostering kindness, compassion, justice, mercy, forgiveness, generosity and goodwill to all whom we meet.
‘Abdu’l-Baha mentioned: “Be ye loving fathers to the orphan, and a refuge to the helpless, and a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged. Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men. In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind: for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest ...” (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3)
While this may seem like a huge responsibility to love and extend goodwill to all the people we encounter on a daily basis, it is part of our growth not only as human beings but as spiritual beings. Some people are more loveable than others, but God loves all of us, so we must also try to share this blessing of loving all of mankind. ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote: “Love is the source of all the bestowals of God. Until love takes possession of the heart, no other divine bounty can be revealed in it.’””(Baha’i World Faith,p.28)
God’s commandment of loving everyone, even those who are disagreeable or seemingly unlovable, is the challenge for mankind, not only in times of the past, but at the present time and into the future. Our behavior toward the people we meet in life — our neighbors, co-workers, the people we deal with in stores and businesses, medical workers, law enforcement and all others — should exhibit the same level of love and kindness that we would extend toward our best friends or our closest loving family members. As we are all created equal and created in the image of God, this seems like an easy task.
However, our human personalities and perceptions of how others should behave often gets in the way of our relating to some people, especially ones who are very different from us or who have vastly different opinions, backgrounds or goals in life. To help us with this, ‘Abdu’l-Baha stated: “Be in perfect unity. Never become angry with one another ... Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy.” (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.93)
Throughout civilization and the revelations of all the manifestations of God, mankind has been called upon to love one another. By focusing on each person as one of God’s children, this lesson becomes clearer. Since we are striving toward world peace, the following query illustrates this teaching: “‘Abdu’l- Baha was asked—Is peace a greater word than love? ‘No! love is greater than peace, for peace is founded upon love. Love is the objective point of peace and peace is the outcome of love. Until love is attained, peace cannot be. The love which is from God is the fundamental.’” (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.169)
Susan Haines is a retired teacher and reading specialist who found the Baha’i faith as a teenager, traveling to a Baha’i Summer Institute, Green Acre, in Maine. Having lived in Frederick County for over 40 years, she serves as the Baha’i public information officer for the Baha’is of Frederick.