FROM FORGIVENESS AND JESUS:
"TEACHING THE MESSAGE"
By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
The lesson Jesus came to teach was that pain, suffering, and hurt, even unto death, are nothing but illusions of the ego. "The Prince of Peace was born to re-establish the condition of love by teaching that communication remains unbroken even if the body is destroyed" (text, p. 305; T- 15.XI.7:2)*. The greatest temptation of this world is to believe that one is a victim, unfairly treated by forces outside one's mind. Thus, Jesus asks us to take him as our "model for learning, since an extreme example is a particularly helpful learning device" (text, p.84; T-6.in.2:1).
In the Course, Jesus says further:
The journey to the cross should be the last "useless journey." Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. If you can accept it as your own last useless journey, you are also free to join my resurrection .... Do not make the pathetic error of "clinging to the old rugged cross." The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. This is not the Gospel I intended to offer you (text, p.47; T-4.in.3:1-3, 7- 10).The crucifixion is the symbol of suffering, sacrifice, and the death of innocence at the hands of sin. To feel victimized by the actions or decisions of others, or helpless in the face of "natural forces" or the forces of sickness, are all different names for the same mistake of believing that God is unjust and that we are His victims, deserving His punishment because of our sinfulness.
In the midst of this ego's insanity of sin, Jesus calls to speak a word of sanity. His forgiveness, given him by the Holy Spirit, is the gift he has given to us. "Hear me, my brothers, hear and join with me" (text, p.621; T-3l.VIII.9:4) in bringing this message of hope and peace to a world that long ago abandoned them. However, we cannot bring this message as long as we believe we are unfairly treated, innocent victims of a cruel and sinful world. There is no world, Jesus taught us, only a belief in it. Good and evil, victims and victimizers, life and death -- all contrasts, differences, and separation -- disappeared in the shining light of his forgiveness. There is no world, proclaims this light, so how can an unreal world victimize? By learning and teaching this lesson to each other, we are released from the chains of guilt that made and sustain this world. The world was made as an attack on God, but since God did not recognize the attack, the sin was forgiven, never having happened.
Completing his own Atonement path, Jesus is able now to help each of us do the same. He is the clearest model for making this decision to forgive -- the condition for accepting God's Kingdom -- and Jesus' risen life is the witness to this statement we would hear in our prayers: "There can be no victims in a world where I am present." To identify as a victim denies his lesson and living presence within us. "Teach not that I died in vain," Jesus urges in the Course, "teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you" (text, p.193; T-11.VI.7:3-4). He asks each of us, as his apostle in the world, to teach with him that he lives, by identifying with the message of the resurrection, not with the world's understanding of the crucifixion.
The road to hell is a long and wearying one, strewn with bodies that suffer at the hands of injustice. Forgiveness reverses this path instantly, reinterpreting injustice as a call for love, embracing all of us in this call and in its answer. Were it not for Jesus' perfect love, forgiveness would have been impossible. In his eyes no injustice was done, for only an ego can be unjustly treated. I repeat this quote from the Course, which would reflect the Course's principal ethic: "Where there is love, your brother must give it to you because of what it is. But where there is a call for love, you must give it because of what you are" (text, p.275; T-14.X.12:2-3). Jesus was able to give it because he knew who he was and Who his Father was. Because love was his only identity, that is what he taught. From such certainty, attack, defense, and unforgiveness became unthinkable. All people were seen as one, and illusions of separateness were not accorded the power to destroy this oneness. Jesus' resurrection conclusively demonstrated that death has no hold over life. As the Course states, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita: "How can the immortal die?" (text, p.375; T-19.11.3:6). Thus, nothing in the world -- no law, however sacrosanct it might seem -- can interfere with the Will of God and make His children unlike to Him.
Jesus, therefore, asks us not to atone for sin through suffering -- punishing others or ourselves -- but rather asks that we atone through forgiveness as he did, correcting our misperception and thus healing the world's. It is the belief in our sinfulness that teaches us we are sinful. Jesus came to teach us we were simply mistaken: God's own image and likeness is invulnerable to the "sinful" forces of the world.
This, then, is Jesus' message to us all: to choose between sin and forgiveness, death and life, the ego and God. His life, death, and resurrection hold this message clearly for us. The Course states it thus: "Teach only love, for that is what you are" (text, p.87; T-6.1.13:2). It is the same choice Moses presented to the Children of Israel: "I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of ... your God" (Dt 30-19). It now remains for us to choose to share in the peace and joy that is the eternal life Jesus offered us, and to teach with him the message of love the world has forgotten.
Now has a different dream come into the world: a dream of the Holy Spirit's justice in place of the ego's nightmare. Now can salvation's joyous song ring out through us from Him to all the world still enslaved by thoughts of sin. What died on the cross was the belief in the cross. What lives is the exultant cry of forgiveness, shouted in gladness by all who choose to live again with Jesus, that this call of love to love will nevermore be silenced. "Let this call live, my brothers and sisters," Jesus asks of us, "and let it live through your forgiveness of the world and of yourselves. Now we begin again, and what we have begun, God Himself has promised to complete."
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