Service, Joy and Sacrifice:
An Essay on Commentaries by 'Abdu'l-Baha'

By James B. Thomas

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #46
Bosch Bahá'í School: California, USA
May 1–4, 2003
(see list of papers from #46)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 5, pages 191-206
© 2004, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Throughout the many talks that 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave to all types of audiences in His travels, He consistently interspersed the subjects of service and sacrifice. These presuppose basic choices that one must make in changing one's life from predominately self interest to one of sharing. Moreover, such sharing and service must occur well beyond an individual's 'comfort zone' to have any significance. This essay deals with the human resistance to such change and the unexpected but uplifting rewards that follow. It further emphasizes the fact of our spiritual nature and the challenge we face in recognizing that fact. In the process of shifting a personal paradigm from self-interest to concern for others, a spiritual transformation will often follow.

    'Abdu'l-Bahá describes four significant levels of sacrifice and identifies physical/spiritual types. The ultimate goal is to attain the 'station of sacrifice'. Within this context, 'Abdu'l-Bahá provides a supreme example of a life of service to God and to humankind. He expounds upon the meaning of suffering and the mystery of sacrifice.

    References are made to the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation and the extraordinary sacrifices by the early believers. Early centuries of Christianity are also mentioned. The unconditional faith that the many heroes of religion expressed provides tremendous inspiration for today. 'Abdu'l-Bahá brings all of this into focus in His unique style, a style that connects us to our own deep purposes in life.

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