[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
One of the most beautiful aspects of A Course in Miracles for me is its re-interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion. Traditionally, the crucifixion has been seen as Jesus’ blood sacrifice for our sins, but in the Course, it is an “extreme example” (T-6.I.2:1) of limitless love. In the Course’s view, Jesus voluntarily went through the crucifixion to demonstrate that we can love and forgive even when experiencing “the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego” (T-6.I.9:1). He realized that it is impossible to kill the eternal life that belongs to all of us as Sons of God; therefore, those who attempted to kill him (and those who seemed to betray and abandon him, like Judas and the other disciples) deserved not anger and condemnation, but only love. This is the message of the crucifixion: “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2).
This is not a message one hears in traditional Christian circles. However, there are more and more “nontraditional” Christians out there. John Shelby Spong is a good example. A retired Episcopal bishop, Spong is the author of fourteen decidedly nontraditional books, with titles like Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. While his views differ from the Course in many respects, in a recent Internet Q & A he expressed a view of the crucifixion that reminds me a lot of the Course:
In the portrait painted in the gospels of the cross, the dying Jesus speaks a word of forgiveness to the soldiers who drive the nails. He speaks a word of encouragement to the thief who is portrayed as penitent. He speaks a word of comfort to his mother in her bereavement….Here was a life being put to death unjustly but instead of clinging to his fleeting existence, he is still giving life away. That is a picture of a new level of human consciousness. The cross reveals for me the infinite love of God calling the world and me to a new humanity, calling us beyond survival toward the deepest secrets of transcendence. That is what the cross means to me and it moves me deeply.
It moves me deeply too. In both the Course and in Spong’s description, we have a Jesus who, even as everything is seemingly taken away from him, never stops giving. Even as his body is being put to death, “he is still giving life away.” Even as he is apparently, as the Course puts it, “betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed” (T-6.I.9:2), he is still teaching only love. This is indeed, as Spong says, “a picture of a new level of human consciousness.” I pray that in this world where we seem to be “crucified” daily by everything from a loved one’s unkind remark to the ravages of war and terrorism, more and more of us will hear the call of God to a new consciousness of His infinite Love.