If people for the most part hold a negative view of religion, how can they ever be encouraged to embark on a new spiritual journey? How can their trust be regained? How can their hunger for truth be restored? It can be restored by offering them “a new fruit,” by inspiring a desire to put this truth, this ancient but ever-timely wisdom, to the test:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. _Christ (Matt. 7:16-18)
As an example, tasting a few bad apples may create this reality: avoid all apples. What can possibly reverse this reality? Tasting new apples. Words alone have little if any power to change an established perception. Then how and why do people initiate an investigation of the Bahá’í Faith? At the outset, what restores their confidence more than anything else, is a direct encounter with Bahá’ís. The encounter communicates to them an attitude or perception precisely the opposite of what alienated them from their own faith and caused them to shy away from all faiths. Knowing a few people who display attitudes and actions contrary to their expectations challenges the validity of their position and gives them a reason to re-examine their negative feelings.
Only by observing how the Bahá’ís live, by seeing their openness to new ideas, their freedom from dogmatic and unexamined faith, their deep respect for other religions, races and cultures, their efforts to improve the socio-economic state of the world, their unity and diversity, their concern for a peaceful and healthy planet, their enthusiasm and radiant living, their spiritual composure, their positive perspective, and their sincerity, humility, and high moral standards—all these inspire them to stay on course, to pursue a grand ideal worthy of their time and talent, and to open their hearts and souls to the transforming power of the Word of God. The direct encounter inspires the dream of living in an enchanting world of peace and contentment crowned with a glowing purpose.
Some Indian braves were challenged to climb to the highest peak to see a sea beyond the mountains. Most of them brought back leaves or moss or a certain flower, or some kind of token to prove the height to which they had climbed; but one came back breathless without anything except an expression of joy on his face, and the glory of vision in his eyes. All he said was, “I have seen the crystal sea,” and no one doubted it. _Louise McCraw
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes see you. _Job 42:5
Only after truth seekers have seen the Bahá’í life, only after their suspicion is suspended and their confidence restored, are they willing to examine the Bahá’í teachings seriously, and to judge Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation on its own merits, rather than simply on the merits of their Bahá’í friends.
The serene, silent beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world, next to the might of God. _Blaise Pascal