A Joint Portrait of Jesus

A Course in Miracles claims to be authored by Jesus through a human scribe. If this is really true, we would naturally expect to find parallels between the Jesus of history and the author of the Course. If those parallels are not there, how credible can the Course’s claim really be? If they are there, they would give us a window onto the essential vision of a figure who has shaped our world perhaps more than any other.Yet in many ways the Jesus of the Course does not resemble the Jesus of the gospels. He does not, for instance, constantly highlight his exalted status and call us to believe in him, as he does in the Gospel of John. This disturbing lack of resemblance, however, changes when professional historians sift the gospels, trying to separate what is historically accurate from what is not. Many of their conclusions make the historical Jesus sound uncannily like the author of the Course. To demonstrate this, I have composed the following joint portrait (which is condensed from an article entitled, “Who Was the Jesus of History and Did He Write A Course in Miracles?”. This portrait is based on my understanding of the Course and on the work of a particularly prominent Jesus scholar, Marcus Borg, author of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and Jesus: A New Vision. In what follows, every statement is meant to be true of both the Jesus of history and the Jesus of the Course. What emerges, in my opinion, is a portrait of an entrancing figure with a unique and challenging vision.

Jesus is not the only-begotten Son of God sent to earth to die for our sins. Rather, he is one of us who, as a man, simply had an unusual degree of experiential contact with God. He says remarkably little about himself. Having found freedom himself, his only goal is to help us find it. To this end, he is primarily a teacher, one who is a master of words. What he teaches is not correct beliefs or right morals, but a way of transformation. This way is a radical alternative to the world’s conventional wisdom. His teachings therefore continually turn upside down our usual way of seeing life. They seek to transform our perception, so that we see the world through new eyes.

His teachings can be grouped into three great themes: I) a vision of ultimate reality, II) a diagnosis of the human condition, and III) a presentation of the way of liberation.

I. VISION OF ULTIMATE REALITY. In Jesus’ view, reality is ultimately spirit, not matter, at the summit of which is God. The character of God is a crucial issue for Jesus. He criticizes our traditional religions because of their emphasis on a God who punishes. Instead, he sees God as the perfectly loving, attentive, caring, available father. Totally contrary to our ideas of how to treat people, with God there is literally no relationship between what we appear to deserve and how He actually responds to us. As a result, God showers His blessing on the just and unjust alike. He welcomes everyone, casting no one outside the circle of His love. He responds to all with the same unbridled love, even if they appear to deserve the opposite. Even when we believe we have earned His wrath, he embraces us and treats us as his beloved son.

II. DIAGNOSIS OF THE PROBLEM. Jesus’ diagnosis of the human condition challenges our most cherished assumptions, for it says that the problem is not what we call evil, sin, and crime, but what we call the good life. He indicts our primary, “loving” relationships as being fundamentally self-serving. He takes aim at our preoccupation with material things, labeling it an idolatry which shuts out God. He denounces our love affair with gaining a special standing among others. And he criticizes the approach to religion which is about measuring up to the standards of a demanding God. In all of these things, Jesus sees the workings of a profound selfishness. He sees an anxious, fearful self, one that is preoccupied with using the people and things around it to build its own safe and eminent identity. This whole effort is a substitute for simply receiving the sense of safety, worth, and love that comes freely from God.

III. WAY OF LIBERATION. The cure, according to Jesus, does not lie in simply behaving better on the outside. There must be a deep-level transformation. Our fundamental allegiance, the wellspring of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, must undergo a revolution. Currently, we are centered in what we think of as our self. That self must be let go of, so that we can become truly centered in God. Out of this apparent death, we will feel as if we have been born again. Our natural reaction will be one of celebration and rejoicing. No more will we try to grab security and identity from the world, no longer will we be dependent on how things go on the outside, for we will be filled up by God’s love from the inside.

This will free us to relate to others in a whole new way—in the same way that God relates to us. Just as with God, there will be no relationship for us between what others appear to deserve and how we respond to them. Even when they seem to deserve our hate or indifference, we will be free to give them our undivided love. When they attack us without warrant, we will respond, not in kind, but with forgiveness, defenselessness, and generosity. When they are outcasts who seem undeserving, we will welcome them and draw them in, making them feel that they have come home. This will have a dramatic effect on them. Our love can perform miracles. We, in fact, can be the beginning of a new kind of social pattern. We can become a place of refuge for those who feel broken and alone. The space around us can become a place of joy and celebration, a kind of ongoing feast to which everyone is invited. This space contains the beginnings of a new world, a world that reflects God. To help usher in this world is our function, for, as our teacher told us, we are the light of the world.

Spanish translation Un Retrato Conjunto de Jesús
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