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Forgiving Jesus

- from the perspective of A Course in Miracles -

I have great need for lilies, for the Son of God has not forgiven me.
A Course in Miracles

Why Do We Need To Forgive Jesus?

This may sound a strange question for Christians taught that Jesus sacrificed and suffered on our behalf thus lifting our sins away. Should not this earn our gratitude and love instead of attack? This question might be more understandable for Jews as they have often been accused of murdering the Christ and have suffered persecution and rejection as a consequence.

The Bible portrays Jesus as God's one son whilst we, in St.Paul's words, are only adopted sons ( Ga 4:4, Ep 1:5). Jesus has been given a special position in God's eyes which has been denied us. Being second best must produce, albeit denied, a feeling that we have been unfairly treated which we will then project onto Jesus. Although we are happy to be identified with such an exalted figure there must follow a resentment that only Jesus is getting this extra-special treatment. Jesus is placed on a pillar existing in a state forever unattainable by us.

Jesus appeared to set us an example that suffering atones for sin and leads to salvation. When we are told we must suffer to get something of value we must be left with mixed feelings. "Yes I do want this thing of value (or I think I do) but do I really have to suffer to get it?" These thoughts will produce an ambivalence towards the teacher. A secret anger mixes with our veneration for Jesus which can eventually lead to a complete reversal of the way we think of him. Rebelling against what is now perceived as a harsh teaching we proceed to bury him under the pillar we once put him on.

I am constantly being perceived as a teacher to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception of myself. .... Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you.
A Course in Miracles
T-4.I.6:7, C-5.5:7-8

The Gospels clearly show that Jesus's teaching and example aroused much hostility which finally led to his death. Yet his life was one of teaching the power of love and forgiveness and healing the sick. Why should this upset so many people? One example of this is when he told people to love the tax gatherer, a particularly hated figure in their society. His teaching went against the norms of the ego thought system which believed in real enemies, justified anger and persecution of the guilty. "An eye for an eye" seemed a sensible and just doctrine given to them from the Old Testament. Jesus's teaching was Ďagainst the stream' and very threatening to their thought system. The insecurity created by Jesus's teaching was perceived as a major threat to the ego and warranted the death of Jesus.

The world must therefore despise and reject me me, because the world is the belief that love is impossible.
Ibid. T-8.IV.3:7

A Course in Miracles
teaches that we choose against Heaven and unity and wanted separation, specialness and autonomy instead. Rebelling against our Father we have decided to go it alone without any need of God's help. As Jesus stands for God in our world we will also spurn his help, effectively telling him, "Thanks, but I don't need your help, I can do things much better myself".

You have very little trust in me as yet, but it will increase as you turn more and more often to me instead of to your ego for guidance. The results will convince you increasingly that this choice is the only sane one you can make.
Ibid. T-4.VI.3:1-2

Our egos believe that sin must be punished. Jesus becomes a screen on which we can project our denied sins so he can be punished instead of us. If Jesus can be made to die for our sins we are off the hook. In response Jesus states:

I am made welcome in the state of grace, which means you have at last forgiven me. For I became the symbol of your sin, and so I had to die instead of you. ... No one can die for anyone, and death does not atone for sin.
Ibid. T-19.IV.A.17:1-2,8

Jesus's Equality With Us

Equals should not be in awe of one another because awe implies inequality. It is therefore an inappropriate reaction to me. An elder brother is entitled to respect for his greater experience, and obedience for his greater wisdom.
Ibid. T-1.II.3:5-7

Making Jesus into a special and only son of God robs us of the lesson he tries to teach. He trod the same paths as we now tread and learnt the same lessons we must learn. His example to us is that he succeeded and so can we. In the end we will all become like him, it is only a question of time.

There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. .... The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ (the Course's symbol of total forgiveness) in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God........Is he the Christ? Oh yes, along with you.
Ibid. T-1.II.3:10-12, C-5.2:1-2, C-5.5:1

As we learn to take back our projections from Jesus and forgive we open ourselves to his help. Now he is perceived as an elder brother who only wants to heal our minds and asks nothing in return. Walking the path of forgiveness with Jesus as our teacher will eventually allow us to follow his request:

Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.
Ibid. T-11.VI.7:3-4

The following true story gives a good example of our ambivalence towards Jesus.

The Voice of Jesus
by Linda Chubbuck

(used by permission of Linda Chubbuck  

The Voice of Jesus has been published in
The Holy Encounter and Miracle Worker magazines.

A few weeks ago, my 10-year old son and I were chatting about A Course in Miracles. I told him how it came (without mentioning a source) and read him the introduction. He was enchanted.

The next day, he asked another question about it. I answered.
The following day, I noticed him flipping through the Course himself. Strange, I thought. "August, what is it about the Course that especially interests you?" I asked.

He replied, with a sense of wonder, "It's the Voice! It's gentle, but commmanding.... like Aslan!"

I felt a shiver of awe pass through me. He is currently devouring each of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, by CS. Lewis. And Aslan, the Lion, is known to be Lewis's metaphor for Christ. August had recognized the Voice of Jesus in the Course as familiar to him, and as loving and powerful.

My childhood experience of Jesus was the opposite. By the time I was a young woman, I wanted no part of Jesus. His very name made me feel nauseated and repelled. It conjured up images from childhood sermons of suffering, bloody thorns on his head, and my own guilty part in the crucifixion.

Too wilful to come to Jesus out of obedience and fear, I instead rejected, by my early 20's, the whole business - God, along with his scolding, judgmental Son, and all the rules which would almost certainly condemn me to hell. If I didn't believe in them, they couldn't hurt me, could they?

By my mid-30's, my defiance caught up with me. Though living an apparently successful life, I was coming apart at the seams inside. In great humility, I came to know God through the simple medium of prayer. My journey had begun.

My resentment of Jesus, however, continued. Eventually, I found myself offering Jesus himself a simple prayer - "Sorry, Jesus, that I can't stand you. I know it's not your fault, all the things people have done in your name. But I just get along better without you. Thanks for understanding." I continued on my way.

Living in the Bible Belt, I was reminded regularly of His presence. "Jesus" bumper stickers.... "How crude! Just the sort of people to try and cram Him down your throat, no doubt!" "Jesus Died for Your Sins" road signs - I could hardly bear to look at them, they irritated me so.

A few years after my re-connection to God, I was given a gift of A Course in Miracles. Intrigued, I opened it, and tried. But as soon as I understood that Jesus was a part of it, I closed it again. No way. Sorry, but my stomach turned again. The book sat on my shelf.

I began, however, to read authors who wrote of the Course - Jerry Jampolsky, and later, Marianne Williamson. They wisely, I thought, omitted any annoying mention of Jesus. So I could take it. I savoured their books.

Then in November of 1993, in an emotional crisis, I was led to a staunch and very compassionate Baptist woman, to whom I poured out my fears of the church, Jesus, and hell. She listened lovingly, and offered to pray with me. She asked if I wanted to invite Jesus into my life. Terrified and in tears, I agreed. We prayed together, and I did so.

I drove home in a panic. What had I done? This Man, this symbol of fear and judgment and hell and suffering - I had invited Him into my life? Did I have to stop all sin instantly? Would I go to hell? What did I have to believe now? I was sobbing.

I came to my computer, weeping, and wrote out all the quesions... poured them out. As the questions ended, a Voice at my left shoulder, with the power to be heard over all my fears, spoke: "There are answers."

1t was so loving, so powerful. I knew it was Jesus speaking, and I understood that He meant the answers would unfold ahead of me, and that I need not be afraid. I was comforted.

An hour later, I picked up the Course, and this time, did not set it down. I devoured the Text, then began the lessons over the next few weeks. I hungered for it, and cried and wept as I took in His words, His love. Here were the answers I had asked for.

Looking back, I know that I was pulled by His power, over the wall of my distrust, into His arms. For quite some time, I preferred to pray to the Holy Spirit, while acknowledging Jesus' place in the whole system. The more abstract form of God seemed "safer" somehow. But recently, I have realized that true intimacy is linked to forgiveness - and forgiveness is Jesus' realm.

The Voice that I heard at times, but preferred to call the Holy Spirit, or my angels, I now address as "Jesus." That Voice is, as my son put it, always "gentle, but commanding." Never scolding, shaming, or condemning - but always very, very intimate and tender and personal.

Last week, I told my son a bit about my former repulsion for Jesus, and asked how he (raised outside the church) thought of Jesus, when he thought of Him.

He replied, not surprisingly I guess, "Like Aslan."

I still find myself carrying shame and embarrassment as I use the name of Jesus. Or my cynical ego voice will berate me that I am losing my sanity, listening to "voices!" But the consistency, and the compelling quality of His Voice reassure me.

If Jesus can speak through different humans, and still be lovingly recogized by a child... that is the Voice I want to hear forever.