I. Atonement Without Sacrifice, P 2
2 The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth. It is unwise to accept any concept if you have to invert a whole frame of reference in order to justify it. This procedure is painful in its minor applications and genuinely tragic on a wider scale. Persecution frequently results in an attempt to “justify” the terrible misperception that God Himself persecuted His Own Son on behalf of salvation. The very words are meaningless. It has been particularly difficult to overcome this because, although the error itself is no harder to correct than any other, many have been unwilling to give it up in view of its prominent value as a defense. In milder forms a parent says, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” and feels exonerated in beating a child. Can you believe our Father really thinks this way? It is so essential that all such thinking be dispelled that we must be sure that nothing of this kind remains in your mind. I was not “punished” because you were bad. The wholly benign lesson the Atonement teaches is lost if it is tainted with this kind of distortion in any form.
Everything in the Course teaches us that God is Love and so are we. It teaches us that God loves us and does not want us to suffer, and in fact wants only our happiness. It teaches us that we are one with each other and with God and that everything to the contrary is an illusion of our own making. The Course teaches us that to experience this we only need to let go of our illusion. It even tells us how to do this.
We can’t believe that Jesus was punished for our sins and still believe what he is telling us in A Course in Miracles. Either his death has been completely misunderstood or what he has told us in the Course is wrong. The desire to hold onto this idea of Jesus dying for our sins is representative of our desire to justify holding onto some of the illusion while letting the rest go, and is why we experience the process as hard.
Jesus gives the example of using his death as justification for beating a child. If our Heavenly Father killed His son to atone for our sins, then it makes perfect since to believe it’s alright to beat a misbehaving child. I see that this kind of thinking shows up in my life in many ways. I want to let go of the illusion of separation and return my mind to God, but it seems I want to retain my “right” to punish myself and others.
As I was writing about beating a child, I thought about an instance when I lost my temper and slapped my daughter. Just thinking about this I felt so guilty and so regretful that I cried. Even after all these years I had not allowed this guilt to be healed because I didn’t feel worthy of forgiveness. I have been holding onto the idea of condemnation and punishment for just these kinds of things.
I have learned to civilize my behavior so I seldom act on my angry thoughts, but the thoughts are still there sometimes. Any time I think someone should have acted differently, I have silently condemned them, and in my mind I have punished them. The punishment might even show up in our life. I might punish them by avoiding them, for instance.
In the scheme of things it doesn’t seem like much, but in judging this person and finding him guilty and deserving of punishment I have rejected everything the Course is teaching me. I have rejected my true Self, my Oneness, my unity with my brothers and with God. In short, I have said that I choose not to accept my self as Love because it would mean that I would have to be one with this person who just doesn’t meet my standards.
It would also mean that I cannot accept God Who is Love and Who knows nothing of condemnation or punishment. However, if I can say that God punished His Son with death, then this makes it easier to justify my own judgments. This is why Jesus says that we must get rid of any belief that we still hold about his death being a punishment.
To return to God, we must let go of the idea of guilt, blame and punishment; even of death. These are things we made up as part of the separation idea. They didn’t exist before we made them and they do not truly exist now. They have nothing to do with God and nothing to do with reality.
It is not that we have to forgive a guilty behavior, but that we have to forgive the very idea of guilt. Yes, we practice this by forgiving people, ourselves, and situations. We do this by forgiving one guilty thought at a time, because we must start someplace. But in doing this practice we are simply allowing our mind to adjust to the truth that guilt itself is unreal and so there is nothing to forgive.