C06S01b

Guest Author Robert Perry


Study Guide and Commentary

Chapter 6, The Lessons of Love

Section I, The Message of the Crucifixion 

(paragraphs 8-19)



As we continue studying T-6.I, I think it will be helpful to keep in mind what Allen presented in the previous commentary: the three insane premises of the ego and the conclusion to which they lead (T-6.In.1:3-4), as well as the Holy Spirit’s response (T-6.In.1:7 and 1:4):


Ego’s premises and conclusion       Holy Spirit’s premises and conclusion


1. You believe that you have been 1. You cannot be attacked.

attacked.

2. Your attack is justified in return. 2. Attack has no justification.

3. You are in no way responsible for it. 3. You are responsible for what you 

believe.

Conclusion: Conclusion: 

A brother is worthy of attack. A brother is worthy of love.


Allen mentioned last week that he finds it helpful to see T-6.I as a response to and correction of ego premise #1 above: “I have been attacked.” I personally believe that T-6.I addresses and corrects all three ego premises (and the ego’s conclusion). The crucifixion, as presented here, was Jesus’ demonstration of the premises and conclusion of the Holy Spirit, and his refutation of the premises and conclusion of the ego. I will provide support for this idea at various points in this study guide, and present my summary of the message of the crucifixion at the end. 


Paragraph 8

 

Study Question

1. What do you think Jesus means when he says, “It is still on them that I must build my church” (8:2)?

The first two sentences here apply the previous paragraph’s discussion of the disciples’ seeming betrayal and abandonment of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane to all of us. Jesus is sorry when we seemingly “betray” and “abandon” him by not joining him in listening to the Holy Spirit (8:1), but he is not angry with us. He is sorry simply because this weakens us as teachers and learners, ensuring that we will continue to teach the painful lessons of persecution and attack, instead of his joyous lesson of love. 

But Jesus recognizes that in truth we cannot betray and abandon him, and tells us that, in spite of our mistakes, it is still on us that he must build his church (8:2). This is a reference to Peter’s famous confession of Christ (Matthew 16:13-18). Peter had declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and Jesus praised this answer, saying, “I tell you that you are Peter [a name which means “rock”], and on this rock I will build my church.” Traditionally, Bible interpreters have taken this to mean that the foundation of the Christian church is either Peter himself or the content of Peter’s confession—that Jesus is the Son of the living God. The idea of Peter as foundation is one rationale for the Pope being the leader of the Catholic Church, since he is the bishop of Rome in the lineage of Peter. 

Here, Jesus gives Peter’s confession a new meaning: We are the foundation of Jesus’ church. I think that when he speaks of his “church,” he means his teaching, or his message. He must build his church on us because, like Peter, we are literally his disciples (8:6), and because, like Jesus, we are the Sons of the living God. Jesus’ message is rooted in the recognition that all of us are the Son of God, and that message is placed in our hands as his disciples, so that we can share it with the world.

The metaphor of the church and the altar hearkens back to earlier discussions in T-2.III and T-5.II.8:


The Voice for God comes from your own altars to Him. These altars are not things; they are devotions. Yet you have other devotions now. Your divided devotion has given you the two voices, and you must choose at which altar you want to serve. (T-5.II.8:6-9)


In this metaphor, we are the church, and our “altar” is the part of our minds that holds our devotions. All of us have an altar devoted to God, where our holiness abides (8:4). But now our minds are split, and so we have other devotions. We have an altar to the voice of the ego, “a hidden altar that is not serving the purpose for which God intended it” (8:5). If we are to inspire love, we must choose to stop serving at the altar of the ego, and serve only at the altar of God. Because each of us is a “church” with God’s altar at the center, each of us is the foundation of God’s church (8:3).

If we accept Jesus as our model, we are literally his disciples (8:6), just like those who followed him two thousand years ago. Webster’s Dictionary defines “disciple” as “a pupil or adherent of another; follower.” I really like this idea of being a follower of someone, an idea which seems to have fallen into ill repute in our highly independent, individualistic society. As students of the Course, we would be wise to follow Jesus. Why? Not because we are inferior or because he will punish us if we don’t, but simply because following him will save us pain (8:7). He is our teacher, and we are his pupils; following him is the way out of hell for us.  


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Study Question

2. Bring to mind a current situation in your life in which you are seemingly being attacked. Notice all of the specific ways in which you seem to be attacked, and notice the feelings this “attack” arouses in you. Then say, “I am here in this situation to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter.”

I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter. As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. (9:1-2)


What powerful lines! They are similar to 5:3, where Jesus says, “I was persecuted as the world judges, and did not share this evaluation for myself.” Jesus was persecuted on a form level, which is how the world judges, but he chose not to perceive it that way. He knew that while the body could be assaulted and destroyed (4:1-2), he could not. And so the “outrageous assault” on his body really didn’t matter at all.

I have always been struck by the stark contrast in these lines between the appearance of the horrible brutalization of Jesus’ body, and the reality that this brutalization didn’t matter at all. When I read these lines, I think of the Shroud of Turin, an ancient burial shroud that many (including myself) believe to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus. When one looks at the image on the Shroud, two things are very apparent. First, the body covered by the Shroud was brutalized beyond belief—it was flogged to a bloody pulp, beaten to the point that bones were broken, pierced with a spear, and of course punctured by the nails in wrists and feet. Second, in spite of this beating the facial expression of the man in the Shroud reveals a haunting, compelling serenity. This contrast between torn body and peaceful face led one Shroud researcher to say that the body and the face of the man in the Shroud just don’t go together—meaning that, under ordinary circumstances, a person who is so horribly beaten looks anything but serene. This researcher found the Shroud figure’s serenity in the face of brutalization to be amazing, and very moving. To me, it perfectly captures the spirit of these two lines from the Course. 

Why was Jesus attacked, especially if he had “not harmed anyone”? We are told that this attack “was only because of the projection of others onto me” (9:3). I think this idea is clarified by the following lines from T-6.V:


Many thought I was attacking them, even though it was apparent I was not....What you must recognize is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it therefore perceive this as an attack on them. (T-6.V[B].1:5,7-8)


Jesus, who came with a message of love, did not share the thought system of those who were invested in the ego. Their egos thus perceived Jesus’ message as an attack—they projected their own attacking motives onto Jesus, so now he was the attacker. This gave them the perfect “justification” to attack him: “Projection and attack are inevitably related, because projection is always a means of justifying attack” (T-6.II.3:5). This, by the way, is a perfect expression of the ego’s insane premises: Jesus’ crucifiers had been “attacked” by Jesus, their counter-attack was thus justified in return, and they weren’t in any way responsible for it—it was all Jesus’ fault for being such a rabble-rouser.

  

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Study Question

3. How has Jesus traditionally been seen as the way, the truth, and the life? What, according to this paragraph, is the only way in which Jesus can be seen as the way, the truth, and the life?  

Jesus now begins a discussion of how we can learn from his experience of the crucifixion without having to endure crucifixion (or any form of suffering) ourselves. I think he does this to address a fearful question that may be rising in our minds as we read this material: If Jesus taught us by undergoing a brutal crucifixion, and if he’s also calling us to be teachers, then does answering his call to teach mean that we will have to undergo horrific experiences as he did? Is he (or God) calling on us to suffer in order to teach and learn? Is he calling us to be martyrs, like the Christian saints of old?

Jesus’ answer is an emphatic no. First off, the previous paragraph told us that Jesus elected to be crucified (9:1)—this was not something God thrust upon him. And now we are told that though we are equal with Jesus as learners, we do not have to have similar experiences (10:1), such as crucifixion. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, Whose Mind we share, offers us the learning gained from everyone’s experiences (10:5). Isn’t that an amazing idea? Think of all the great spiritual seekers who have gained enlightenment after excruciating, painful struggle. Now think of this: The wisdom that they worked so hard to win is available to you right now, through the Voice for God that all of us share. If you listen to His Voice, you will inevitably be led, as those seekers were, to demonstrate the way of God (10:6). And this demonstration will not involve suffering, at least not any suffering imposed on you by God, because “when you hear only one Voice you are never called on to sacrifice” (10:4).

Traditionally, the main way in which Jesus has been seen as the way, the truth, and the life (a reference to John 14:6) is through his sacrificial death on the cross. This sacrifice has been the very heart of Christian teaching, and over time a whole tradition has grown up around the idea of “imitating Christ” through undergoing trials, taking on suffering, and enduring persecution for the sake of the Lord—through “taking up our cross” and following him. 

But here, Jesus tells us (echoing 2:1-2) that the only purpose for the crucifixion (or any of his experiences) was to help us learn his lesson—a lesson which says there is no attack, or persecution, or sacrifice—and that this is the only way in which he can be truly seen as the way, the truth, and the life (10:3). In other words, he has earned this designation because he is a teacher, not because he is a sacrifice for sin. And fortunately, we can be reawakened (10:2) through the “extreme example” of his crucifixion without having to experience such suffering ourselves. We can get the resurrection without the crucifixion. Thank God! 

One more comment about the statement that we are “still equal as learners” (10:1): I find this a very reassuring thought. It can be easy to say to ourselves as we read this section, “I’m nowhere near as advanced as Jesus, so there’s no way I can teach and learn this radical lesson!” But he assures us that we are equal to him as learners. It may take some time, and certainly a lot of practice, but we will learn his lesson. All we need to do for now is start moving in the direction he’s pointing us.  


Paragraphs 11 and 12


Study Question

4. In the last paragraph and in Paragraph 11, Jesus tells us that we don’t need to repeat his experience of crucifixion in order to learn from it. What, however, do we need to do in order to learn from it?  

Paragraph 11 is mainly a recapitulation of ideas that have already been discussed in this section. Sentence 1 (echoing 4:6) tells us that neither we nor Jesus have really been persecuted. Sentence 2 (echoing 6:6 and 10:5), reminds us that we don’t need to repeat Jesus’ experiences (like the crucifixion) because we can learn from those experiences by listening to the Holy Spirit. But while we don’t need to repeat Jesus’ crucifixion, we do need to follow Jesus’ example in how to perceive the crucifixion (11:3). We must not use it, or our own experiences of “crucifixion,” to “justify the unjustifiable” (11:4, echoing 6:8)—to justify our anger and attack on others. We must see that this perception is out of accord with the Holy Spirit’s judgment, and so it cannot be justified (11:5, echoing 4:6). If Jesus could do this in such an extreme case, then certainly we can do it in the much milder situations we face (11:6, echoing 6:7). If Jesus could experience the brutal, bloody destruction of his body without seeing the situation as a justification for anger and assault, then certainly we can do the same when that guy cuts us off in traffic. Giving in to anger and assault in such situations just reinforces our own suffering, and “I will with God that none of His Sons should suffer” (11:7, echoing 10:4).

Paragraph 12 begins by telling us that “the crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection” (12:1). I think this means that Jesus’ crucifixion was the result of others’ attack thoughts projected onto him (9:3), and attack thoughts cannot be truly shared. But the resurrection, the reawakening brought about by learning from Jesus’ experience of crucifixion (10:2), can and must be shared. It can be shared because the lesson taught by the crucifixion is in the Mind of the Holy Spirit, Whom we share (11:2). It must be shared because, while “your resurrection is your reawakening” (7:1), it is not your reawakening alone—it is not complete until everyone shares in it, which is why Jesus is so emphatic that we learn from him and teach what we have learned to others. As more and more of us join Jesus in his resurrection, we come to recognize our Wholeness. This is knowledge (12:2) or, as an earlier reference put it, “the dawning on your mind of what is already in it” (7:2). It is in this knowledge that all lessons end.


Paragraph 13


The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: 


Teach only love, for that is what you are. (13:1-2)


This is a beautiful line, much beloved by Course students. But what exactly does it mean within its larger context? As a short, summary statement of the message of the crucifixion, it is packed with all the meaning of the preceding discussion of that message. Let us, then, try to draw some of that meaning out. In a nutshell, given what we’ve already discussed, I would say this line means something like the following: 


In situations in which you seem to be attacked by others, remember that you can choose how to see the situation. Use this power of choice and choose not to see their seeming attack as a justification for anger and counter-attack. Instead, remember that while they can “attack” your body, your real identity is love, which cannot be attacked. By responding to their seeming attack with love rather than anger and counter-attack, you demonstrate your own perfect immunity to attack. If you do this, you will teach love to others, and thus come to recognize that you are love.  


This same message is expressed this way later in the chapter: “Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and you are love” (T-6.III.4:9). Notice that you have to teach it in order to learn it. “As you teach, so shall you learn” (6:1). Notice also that this lesson (the expanded interpretation is my own, of course, but I think it is well grounded in the words of the section) contains all three of the Holy Spirit’s premises, as well as His conclusion: You are responsible for what you believe about the situation (Premise 3), so choose not to see the situation as a justification for attack (Premise 2), but choose instead to remember that you cannot be attacked (Premise 1). If you do so, you will teach that you and your brother are worthy only of love (Conclusion), and thus come to realize that you are love.


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Study Question

5. Can you think of some ways in which Jesus’ crucifixion has been used as a weapon for assault?  

Jesus has told us (11:3) to perceive his experiences as he perceived them, and now he begins to show us how perceiving the crucifixion in any other way, especially the traditional way, not only weakens but destroys its intended message. The next three paragraphs turn away from Jesus’ explanation of the message of the crucifixion, and address instead the ways that the crucifixion can be and has been misunderstood. In particular, they target the same misunderstanding that was targeted in T-3.I: the idea that the crucifixion was a form of punishment. 

Paragraph 14 begins by telling us that if we see in the crucifixion any message other than “Teach only love, for that is what you are,” we are using it as a weapon for assault (14:1). I must admit that before picking up the Course, I never saw that particular message in the crucifixion. Most of us, however, are probably all too familiar with some of the ways it has been used as a weapon for assault. T-3.I.2 discusses how the crucifixion has been used as a defense—that is, as a justification for attacking others, as when a parent uses it to justify beating his child. Certainly we can see how the Christian church has historically used the crucifixion as a justification for persecution, from the burning of “infidels” and “heretics” to the condemnation of Jews as “Christ killers.”

Jesus tells us that the Apostles often misunderstood the crucifixion (14:2). As we’ve seen, the main way the Apostles (particularly Paul) interpreted the crucifixion was as a sacrificial death to atone for our sins—Jesus, God’s Son, taking God’s punishment for our sins upon himself. How did this fearful interpretation of the crucifixion come about? I find the cause and effect relationships outlined in this paragraph difficult to follow, but I think I’ve gotten a sense of it, with the help of a crucial sentence from earlier in this section: “Projection means anger, anger fosters assault, and assault promotes fear” (3:3). Here’s the sequence as I see it:

1. First, the Apostles had a “sense of guilt” (14:4). I think this certainly refers to the primordial guilt that we all have about the separation, but it may also refer specifically to guilt about the crucifixion itself. The Apostles undoubtedly felt guilty about betraying and abandoning Jesus (falling asleep in the garden, not realizing they had a betrayer among them in Judas, scattering after Jesus was arrested, Peter denying Jesus). They may have blamed themselves for their master’s crucifixion.

2. Their sense of guilt, their “imperfect love,” made them “vulnerable to projection” (14:3). Their guilt was so acute that they had to project it outward onto others. Now  others were guilty; others were to blame for the crucifixion.

3. Now the Apostles had a justification to be angry at others. These first three points, I believe, capture the meaning of “their sense of guilt had made them angry” (14:4).

4. This anger toward others was an assault or attack on others. This assault may also have taken tangible form—if not physical attack, at least verbal attack. Certainly some of the New Testament diatribes against non-believers sound like angry attacks by the Apostles.  These attacks merely compounded the Apostles’ guilt.

5. This assault and the compounded guilt that came with it led them to fear retaliation and punishment, both from others and from God. And so, “out of their own fear they spoke of the ‘wrath of God’ as His retaliatory weapon” (14:3).  

6. This led directly to their interpretation of the crucifixion as God’s retaliatory weapon, His means for expiating sin through punishing His own Son. The call for peace (14:1) was perceived as a weapon of assault because “the fearful are apt to perceive fearfully” (2:4).


Paragraph 15


Study Question

6. Call to mind a situation in which you have seemingly been betrayed by someone. See your “betrayer” standing before you, and note the feelings that come up for you, especially those of condemnation. Then say, “This person is my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. How can I condemn him, when Jesus demonstrated, in a much more extreme situation, that condemnation is impossible?”  

This paragraph continues with the theme of the Apostles’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ message. We have already seen examples of Jesus reinterpreting the Bible to rid it of fearful connotations (T-5.VI.6-9, for instance), but this time, he is going a bit further. Rather than reinterpreting the New Testament verses discussed in this paragraph, he flat out says that they don’t belong in the New Testament. They reflect the Apostles’ sense of guilt (15:2) and fear of punishment, not anything Jesus actually said or did.

Here, then, Jesus is unequivocally saying that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God. The Gospels contain mistakes; they are distorted to a certain degree by the egos of the Apostles. Nonetheless, he also tells us that the New Testament’s gospel “is really only the message of love” (15:1). I think we as Course students should really take this to heart. I have heard Course students and teachers reject the Bible outright, calling it “the ego’s religion.” But that is not the picture presented here. Yes, Jesus says, the Bible is not wholly accurate (modern Bible scholars would wholeheartedly agree with him). But underneath the distortions, it is still a message of love.

Now let’s look at the two examples of “upside-down thinking in the New Testament” (15:1) that Jesus mentions. Notice that both examples reflect the same idea that led to the Apostles’ distortion of the meaning of the crucifixion: the idea that God is a wrathful punisher.

1. “I come not to bring peace but a sword” (15:2). Placing this quote (from Matthew 10:34) in its larger context shows just how foreign this statement is to Jesus’ message in the Course:


Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36, NIV)


Could Jesus, the messenger of peace and of joining, really have said this? It is clearly preposterous.

2. Jesus’ reaction to Judas. “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” (15:5) is what the Bible (Luke 22:48) tells us Jesus said to Judas when Judas kissed him as a signal to the authorities to arrest him. Judas did “betray” Jesus on a form level, at least if the Gospel accounts are accurate, but as we’ve already learned, Jesus knew that in truth he could not be betrayed (8:2, 15:5). 

The “punishment” he is said to have called forth upon Judas (15:7) is a reference to Matthew 26:24-25: 


But woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born. 


I find Jesus’ explanation of why he could not have said this strangely moving, because he states so matter-of-factly that Judas was his brother and “as much a part of the Sonship” as himself (15:8), as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. History has seen Judas as the wicked betrayer who sold out his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. His name has entered our language as a virtual synonym for “back-stabber.” But Jesus here dismisses that completely. He turns it on its ear by elevating Judas to the exalted category history has reserved for Jesus: Son of God. He says, in essence, “Well, it is obvious that Judas was my brother and every bit the Son of God that I am. How could I possibly have condemned him when I was about to go to the cross to prove that condemnation is impossible?” (15:9).

Paragraph 16


Study Question

7. Why do you think the word “conflict” in Sentence 7 is in quotation marks?

“As you read the teachings of the Apostles...” (16:1)—I want to point out here that Jesus assumes you are reading the teachings of the Apostles. He really seems to approve of the practice. At one point during the dictation of the Course, Jesus asked Helen to examine his credentials, and then pointedly said to her, “You haven’t read the Bible in years” (Absence from Felicity, p. 229). I don’t think that it is a requirement for Course students to do so, but I do think it could be quite helpful, if read from a Course perspective.

“...remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later” (16:1)—this is a reference to the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John: 


I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when the spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:12-13, NIV)


The “spirit of Truth” is the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus would call down upon the earth to teach the Apostles after he was gone (for the Course version of this event, see C-6.1). The fact that the Apostles did not have a full understanding of Jesus’ message once again shows that the New Testament is not inerrant. Therefore, Jesus tells us that we must read it with a discerning eye, being on the lookout for things (like the examples cited in the last paragraph) that are more a reflection of the Apostles’ egos than of the true inspiration of spirit.

Sentences 2-4 reiterate a theme that runs through all the Course’s discussions of the crucifixion (or the entire Bible, for that matter): Do not interpret the crucifixion in a way that allows the concepts of fear and punishment to enter into your thought system. As he says earlier, “It is so essential that all such thinking be dispelled that we must be sure that nothing of this kind remains in your mind” (T-3.I.2:9). Continuing in this vein, sentence 4 directly refutes the traditional teaching that we are all sinners who deserve punishment, a teaching based on a very fearful picture of God. And notice that, as in Paragraphs 10-11, he addresses our fear that his call for us to be teachers will require us to undergo suffering and sacrifice on behalf of God. “I do not call for martyrs, but for teachers” (16:3).

“Any concept of punishment involves the projection of blame, and reinforces the idea that blame is justified” (16:5). This sentence ties in, I think, with the theme that the Apostles’ guilt led to belief in a punishing God. I find the following passage from later in the Text helpful in clarifying it:


If you did not feel guilty you could not attack, for condemnation is the root of attack. It is the judgment of one mind by another as unworthy of love and deserving of punishment (T-13.In.1:1-2). 


The concept of punishment is rooted in our own guilt—we condemn ourselves for the “sin” of separation from God. This is so painful that we try to get rid of it by projecting the blame for separation onto others, seeing them as sinners deserving of punishment. We see them as worthy of attack rather than worthy of love (T-6.In.1:4). And so we attack them—we punish them (or promote a thought system that says God will punish them). This attack on them only reinforces the idea that our projection of blame onto them is justified, “for all behavior teaches the beliefs that motivate it” (16:6). And so the entire insane cycle of attack/counter-attack is set in motion. 

When this insane thought system encountered the Son of God in Jesus, the result was the crucifixion (16:7). Remember the discussion in Paragraph 9 of how the crucifixion was the result of others’ projection onto Jesus? There, I mentioned that this was a perfect expression of the ego’s insane premises: Jesus’ crucifiers had been “attacked” by Jesus, their counter-attack was thus justified in return, and they weren’t in any way responsible for it. The crucifixion, as the crucifiers perceived it, was a perfect expression of the ego’s thought system. But Jesus countered this by seeing the crucifixion as a perfect demonstration of his thought system: He recognized he could not be attacked, so he had no justification for counterattack, and he took full responsibility for how he perceived the situation. He chose to see his brothers as worthy of love rather than attack. The crucifixion was thus the place where the ego thought system and the thought system of God were brought together, “the perfect symbol of the ‘conflict’ between the ego and the Son of God” (16:7). This same “conflict” happens every day in much less extreme ways in our own lives, and our job, as this section has repeatedly pointed out, is to learn Jesus’ lesson by using his extreme example as a model for how to perceive our own experiences of “crucifixion.” 


Paragraph 17


Study Question

8. The last several paragraphs have presented a picture of God as a punisher of sins, a scenario which leads us to fear God’s punishment. But what, according to this paragraph, are we really afraid of?

The discussion now seems to make an abrupt shift, turning to a discussion of the importance of gratitude. I think to get a sense of how this fits with the preceding paragraphs, we have to review the scenario presented by those paragraphs. They have shown us a thought system in which we are sinners and God is seen as a punisher of sins, a God to be feared—a thought system exemplified in the traditional interpretation of the crucifixion. Given such a belief about ourselves and God, will we be able to love and appreciate either? No, because “fear makes appreciation impossible” (17:3). Nor will we love and appreciate God’s representative, Jesus. When Jesus is seen as the emissary of a fearful, punishing God, we will reject him.

And this is exactly what the ego wants. It deceives us into believing we are guilty sinners trembling before a fearful God in order to give us a justification for rejecting ourselves and rejecting Him. It wants us to reject God and Jesus because they represent what we really are. We are not really guilty sinners; rather, we are love (13:2), and the ego is afraid of love, because love is the ego’s doom. So it convinces us to be afraid of what we really are (telling us that we are sinful), so we will reject our true nature (17:4). It attempts to blot out anything that comes into our lives to remind us of our true nature—this was its motivation for crucifying Jesus. When we listen to the ego, we reject love, and therefore teach others to reject love as well (17:5).

And here’s where gratitude comes in. We escape this grim scenario by developing our “weakened ability to be grateful” (17:1)—grateful to God for creating us, grateful to Jesus for teaching us, and grateful for the love that we really are. This is necessary not to appease God, but simply in order for us to develop true appreciation for God and His creation (17:2). We must learn to appreciate God’s Love, and our true Self created by that Love, rather than reject it. We won’t be able to do this as long as we believe that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, and that is why Jesus has gone to such great lengths to convince us that we are not sinners and God is not to be feared. He has given us a loving interpretation of the crucifixion to enable us to undo our belief that we are guilty and that God will make us pay for our sins. By accepting Jesus’ loving interpretation, we can come to appreciate and love our true Self, along with Jesus our brother and God our Father, once again. 


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Study Question

9. Sentences 1 and 2 are very impactful if put into the first person. So let’s do that right now. Say to yourself, “My power as a Son of God is present all the time, because I was created as a creator. My influence on my brothers is without limit, and must be used for our joint salvation.”

Jesus has spent this entire section presenting us with two diametrically opposed interpretations of the crucifixion: the ego’s fearful interpretation of it, and his own loving reinterpretation. He has made it clear that we can choose how to interpret the “crucifixion” experiences of our lives, and that this choice will determine what lesson we will teach to others, and thus what lesson we will learn. Now, in this paragraph, Jesus reminds us just how much power our choices really have, and implores us to use that power for the benefit of the entire Sonship.   

The first two sentences pack a real wallop. The idea that our “influence on each other is without limit” (18:2) is one that I think we should really reflect upon. All of our choices, even our so-called private thoughts, have a profound effect on those around us. We really shy away from this idea, partly because it seems so preposterous, and partly because we don’t like the idea of having such a profound responsibility for others, which seems to imply profound guilt if we screw up. The Course tells us that the reason we’ve denied the real power of our minds is because we’re so afraid we’ll screw up (or already have): “You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them” (T-2.VI.9:10). What we must remember is that as powerful as our minds are, they do not have the power to cause real damage, and so there is no cause for guilt or fear: “Nothing real can be threatened” (T-In. 2:2).

But we do have immense influence over one another, and so we must choose to use it for our joint salvation (18:2). We must use it to teach our brothers that rejecting our true Identity as God’s Son—the whole idea behind the separation—is meaningless (18:3-4). Refraining from teaching rejection is the only way we’ll stop believing in it (18:5). We must redirect our powerful minds to think as God thinks, so we can know Him again (18:6).


Paragraph 19


Study Question

10. Based on this paragraph, how do you teach others that they can neither hurt nor be hurt?

The first sentence of this paragraph recalls the discussion of the Holy Spirit in Paragraphs 10-11. There, we learned that because we share the Mind of the Holy Spirit with Jesus, we can learn his lesson without experiencing crucifixion as he did (11:2). That lesson was that “no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified” (11:5). Listening to the Holy Spirit is thus the key to learning Jesus’ lesson and correctly perceiving situations in which we appear to be attacked.

The rest of this paragraph tells us what we will learn when we listen to the Holy Spirit’s Voice. It is actually a good summary of the message of the crucifixion. Therefore, I’d like to draw out this message now, emphasizing how the message of the crucifixion is the Holy Spirit’s refutation of the three ego premises we discussed at the beginning. 

In summary, then, the message of the crucifixion is this: When you are in a situation in which you appear to be attacked, you must remember:

1. You cannot be attacked. When your brothers seemingly attack you, you must remember that “you cannot either hurt or be hurt” (19:2).

2. Attack has no justification. When your brothers seemingly attack you, you have no justification to attack them back, because you haven’t really been hurt. Instead of counter-attacking, your job is to give them a blessing, so that they too will learn that they can neither hurt nor be hurt (19:2). Your blessing is what they are really calling for when they attack you. Your blessing is the only thing that is justified in this situation; “Pardon is always justified” (T-30.VI.2:1). Offering your blessing instead of attack is the way you “teach only love” (13:2).

  3. You are responsible for what you believe. When your brothers seemingly attack you, it is up to you to decide how to perceive the situation. Their seeming attack has no power to determine your response; rather, you must decide whether to respond to their real need by giving them your blessing, or to some other need they think they have (such as their ego’s need for you to attack them back) (19:3). You are fully responsible for seeing their seeming attack as either a call for counter-attack, or a call for a blessing.

If you remember all of this, you will see that your brothers are worthy of love rather than attack. You will have learned the message of the crucifixion from Jesus, and will be as eager as he is to share it with others (19:3).



Answer Key


1. “Them” refers to us—all of Jesus’ brothers. “My church,” I believe, basically refers to Jesus’ teaching or message. He must build his church on us because we are the Sons of God, and his message is rooted in that recognition. He also must build his church on us because we are literally his disciples (8:6), and so we are charged with extending his message to the world.


2. No written answer is expected.


3. The main way in which Jesus has been seen as the way, the truth, and the life is as a savior who cleansed us of our sins through his death on the cross. Seeing him in this way is traditionally the only way that one could be saved. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:16). But in this paragraph, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life only in the sense that he has offered his life to us as a teaching example, which will help us reawaken if we will learn from his example (10:2-3).


4. We need to follow his example in how to perceive the crucifixion (11:3)—both Jesus’ crucifixion and our own experiences of “crucifixion.”


5. Some examples that come to mind: Using it to justify anger at the Jews for being “Christ killers,” using it to justify persecution of heretics and non-believers, using it to justify punishment of any kind, using it to instill fear in others by claiming that belief in Jesus’ sacrificial death is the only way to salvation, using it to instill guilt by saying, “Look what Jesus did for you—don’t you owe it to him to be a good Christian?”, using it to convince others of the gravity of their sins.


6. No written answer is expected.


7. Because it is not really a conflict, only a seeming conflict (sentence 8 goes on to say that the conflict only seems real). While the ego is in conflict with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not in conflict with the ego, because He knows the ego is really nothing. “The ego attacks and the Holy Spirit does not respond” (W-pI.66.2:4).


8. We are afraid of what we are (17:4), which is love (13:2). This is consistent with the Course’s teaching that while we appear to fear God’s wrath, this is merely a cover for our deeper fear of God’s love (see, for instance, T-29.I.2). 


9. No written answer is expected.


10. By giving them a blessing (19:2), even when they appear to be attacking you.



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