Saturday, June 6, 2009

Refining Utterance (38-40)

What should be done if someone persists in attempting to make others listen to backbiting or engages in other flagrant conduct injurious to tie community? Is reporting it to the institutions of the Faith backbiting?

38) "While it can be a severe test to a Baha'i to see fellow believers violating Baha'i laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offense and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender.

"If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. Once it is in the hands of the Assembly the believer's obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement - unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action.

"Sometimes, however, the matter does not seem grave enough to warrant reporting to the Spiritual Assembly, in which case it may be best to ignore it altogether. There are also other things that can be done by the Baha'i to whose notice such things come. For example, he could foster friendly relations with the individual concerned, tactfully drawing him into Baha'i activities in the hope that, as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct. Or perhaps the relationship is such that he can tactfully draw the offender's attention to the teachings on the subject - but here he must be very careful not to give the impression of prying into a fellow-believer's private affairs or of telling him what he must do, which would not only be wrong in itself but might well produce the reverse of the desired reaction.

"If a believer faced with knowledge of another Baha'i's conduct is unsure what course to take, he can, of course, always consult his Local Spiritual Assembly for advice. If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.

"Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offense."

(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated February 20, 1977, to an individual believer)

39) "If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)

40) "…it should be realized that there is a distinction drawn in the Faith between the attitudes which should characterize individuals in their relationship to other people, namely, loving forgiveness, forbearance, and concern with one's own sins, and not the sins of others, and those attitudes which should be shown by the Spiritual Assemblies, whose duty is to administer the law of God with justice."

(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated February 6, 1973,
Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 110)

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