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17 March 2021

For our sins

The nineteen-day Baháʼí fast is currently being observed. It involves complete abstention from food and drinks from sunrise till sunset. It is a spiritual reinvigoration period through meditation and prayer when Baháʼís detach from the material world's selfish desires.

It is with this material detachment that the concept of "sin" comes forward. Oxford Dictionary defines sin as "an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law." The Baha'i teachings define it differently: the "attachment of spirit and self to the material world" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions). Sin comes from our lower nature, the ego, the insistent self:

God has created all in His image and likeness. Shall we manifest hatred for His creatures and servants? This would be contrary to the will of God and according to the will of Satan, by which we mean the natural inclinations of the lower nature. This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan—the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside.
– 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

In the 13th century, Saint Thomas Aquinas elaborated the "Seven Deadly Sins," or seven vices that spur other sins:

  1. vainglory, or pride
  2. greed, or covetousness
  3. lust, or excessive or illicit sexual desire
  4. envy
  5. gluttony, which is usually understood to include drunkenness
  6. wrath, or anger
  7. sloth.
Each of these can be overcome with the seven corresponding virtues of
  1. humility
  2. charity
  3. chastity
  4. gratitude
  5. temperance
  6. patience
  7. diligence.
The deadly sins were a popular theme in the art, literature, and theater of the Middle Ages.

The Baháʼí writings teach us that humans are spiritual beings clothed in a material world. We all struggle to fulfill our spiritual nature and overcome our animal traits. Yes, we can all sin—but because our inner beings are filled with light, its rays will permanently envelop and warm the coldest heart.


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