I. Atonement Without Sacrifice, P 1
1 A further point must be perfectly clear before any residual fear still associated with miracles can disappear. The crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did. Many sincere Christians have misunderstood this. No one who is free of the belief in scarcity could possibly make this mistake. If the crucifixion is seen from an upside-down point of view, it does appear as if God permitted and even encouraged one of His Sons to suffer because he was good. This particularly unfortunate interpretation, which arose out of projection, has led many people to be bitterly afraid of God. Such anti-religious concepts enter into many religions. Yet the real Christian should pause and ask, “How could this be?” Is it likely that God Himself would be capable of the kind of thinking which His Own words have clearly stated is unworthy of His Son?
The crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did. This was a very important sentence for me when I first read the Course. I remember sighing a deep sigh of relief. Having spent most of my life as a devout Catholic, the focus of my spiritual beliefs was that Jesus died for my sins and that I should, in return, live a sinless life or his suffering and death were for naught.
This idea of suffering for God was very strong in the Catholic Church. Saints were venerated for their martyrdom and as a child, I hoped that one day I would face a crisis of faith and have the opportunity to prove that I was willing to suffer for God, too. I loved God so much that I just knew I would not back down from this challenge.
As I grew older and committed “sins,” I lost faith in myself as a good Catholic. I was guilty and so no longer believed in my pure love of God and His love for me. I became afraid of the idea of sacrifice for God and felt even guiltier. This change did not evolve consciously, and it is only in retrospect that I see how it happened that I went from feeling loved and protected by God to feeling guilty and fearful of God. I learned to dread the moment I would be asked to face crucifixion to prove myself worthy of salvation.
The idea of guilt and the need to atone for this guilt through suffering is a very deeply rooted belief and shows up in my life even now. It shows up in many little ways. I have, in the past, chosen to suffer sickness and heartache, poverty and disillusionment because I was afraid of something worse. I was trying to appease an angry and vengeful God so that He will not inflict worse upon me.
I threw myself headlong into pain and suffering and finally death, in an effort to convince God I have hurt myself enough and He doesn’t need to demand my crucifixion. The reasoning was that maybe my self-inflicted suffering would convince Him I was worthy of His love again, and I would be saved. Of course, I didn’t consciously ascribe to this theory, but I kept hurting myself, so what can I say?
Jesus has offered us a new way of atoning for our supposed sins. He has set into motion a plan that will actually save us from our mistaken beliefs. The plan of Atonement requires that we look at those ideas and choose against them. The Holy Spirit will then purify our minds and heal us. We will be left with nothing but truth and will surely laugh at the idea that God has ever wanted our suffering.
What will I have to give up to join Jesus in this plan of Atonement? I will have to give up the belief in guilt. The idea of suffering will have to go. That means no more sickness, no more poverty, no more pain, jealousy, rage, doubt, fear, loneliness, depression or death. I will have to give up the idea of a God that wants me to suffer to prove my love. I don’t know. If I give up all of that, what will be left?
Can that be a real fear I have, that I am nothing without my sins and my punishments? Maybe. Evidently, this is exactly what I did believe for my whole life. Now I have embraced the possibility that I am more than the fear and guilt I used to believe I was, and that there is a way to reclaim this Self that loves God and is loved and cherished by Him. Through the Plan of Atonement put into motion by Jesus, I am resurrecting my real Self. My thinking is being corrected, my mind is being healed, and my memory is returning. Love is reclaiming me.