Spiritual leaders answer on community service

 Editor’s note: “Spiritual leaders answer” is a weekly column inviting Kaua‘i’s religious and spiritual leaders to share their doctrine’s perspective on a suggested subject. Every Friday a topic is printed inviting a response. Submissions are edited for content and length. Thoughts or suggestions for future topics are always welcome. Next week’s topic is grandparents. The topic at the end of the column is for the following week.

Rev. James Fung

Lihu‘e Christian Church

If our love for someone has any merit at all, it will demonstrate itself in the manner of our living. This is how it is in the love we profess for God. If we love God then our love will also show in the way we regard God’s people — in the way that we respond to human need, in the way that we allow God’s love to flow through us and to be made tangible in a world where hunger, poverty, illness and spiritual lostness and confusion is very real.

A classic question that speaks directly to this can be found in the New Testament: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2: 14-17).

I remember, a few years back, while serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the poor in a church basement, a homeless man came up to me and asked, “Why are you giving up your Thanksgiving Day to help people like me? You don’t even know me.” I answered, “I guess it’s because you’re important to God, and therefore, you’re important to me.”

The man walked away with his tray of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. But I wonder and pray that he walked away with more than that. Hopefully, he walked away with the thought in his head that, even in hard times, God had not forgotten him and yes, he was important to God. 

Baha’is of Kaua‘i

The main tenets of the Baha’i Faith are unity and love. Baha’is are instructed to be of service to humanity, to be a reflection of God’s love for every human being. Baha’i children are taught from an early age to be of service to others.

 “Let deeds not words be your adorning” is a frequently used quote from the Baha‘i writings to guide our affairs. Therefore, individual Baha’is strive to serve their community by participating in nonprofit organizations with missions of service. Because social problems are plaguing communities, Baha’i institutions throughout the world are currently offering community-building activities to encourage the development of spirituality and virtues among children and youth. Non-sectarian youth activities and children’s classes are being promoted in every community. Adult study groups are also available where spiritual principles can be discussed and shared.

As this nascent faith grows, as needs are seen, projects on a larger scale are inaugurated to aid in the solution of the problems many communities are enduring. For instance, in developing countries Baha’i schools are instituted to educate children and to provide them with vocational skills.

The following quotes from the Baha’i writings reflect the importance of community service. 

“Therefore, order your lives in accordance with the first principle of the divine teaching, which is love. Service to humanity is service to God. Let the love and light of the Kingdom radiate through you until all who look upon you shall be illumined by its reflection. Be as stars, brilliant and sparkling in the loftiness of their heavenly station. Do you appreciate the Day in which you live?

“You will be servants of God, who are dwelling near to Him, His divine helpers in the service, ministering to all Humanity. All Humanity! Every human being! Never forget this!

“O Thou kind Lord! These lovely children are the handiwork of the fingers of Thy might and the wondrous signs of Thy greatness. O God! Protect these children, graciously assist them to be educated and enable them to render service to the world of humanity. O God! These children are pearls, cause them to be nurtured within the shell of Thy loving-kindness.

“O Thou merciful God! O Thou Who art mighty and powerful! O Thou most kind Father! These servants have gathered together, turning to Thee, supplicating Thy threshold, desiring Thine endless bounties from Thy great assurance. They have no purpose save Thy good pleasure. They have no intention save service to the world of humanity.

“Paralleling this process, Baha’í institutional life will also be developing, and as it does so the Assemblies will draw increasingly upon scientific and expert knowledge — whether of Baha’is or of non-Baha’is—to assist in solving the problems of their communities.”

Lama Tashi Dundrup

Kaua‘i Dharma Center

Spiritually, the community is humankind globally as a family. The interaction between members of this family is based on the idea of seeing to it that each person’s basic needs are taken care with concern, loving kindness and actual service. This is one of the two reasons why we are here. The first reason is to bring benefit to each human being and to help them to become free, happy, supported by their local government and community organizations. The second reason we are here is to actually evolve spiritually as to our ultimately true inherent nature, so that we can become more powerful in extending these benefits and community services to all beings and to our natural world.

Topic for two weeks from today

• Will you speak to us on salvation?

• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

• Deadline: 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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