[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The “when I said” passages in the Course offer a great deal of support and confirmation to Jesus’ teachings in the Bible. Only two gospel sayings are specifically denied. Several are emphatically supported, even strengthened. Notable examples of this are “I am with you always” and “my peace I give to you.”
However, there is a significant note of correction and/or clarification. According to these passages, following Jesus does not mean being:
- at the mercy of divine wrath (not peace but a sword, judge not that ye be not judged)
- a betrayer of the divine (betrayest thou the Son of Man)
- forever having blind faith (blessed are ye who have not seen)
- poor (sell all you have)
- weak (the meek shall inherit the earth, become as little children)
- beneath/lower than Jesus (see discussion below)
In other words, Jesus clearly wants to correct the notion that the religious life means being a kind of weak, cowering sinner.
There is also a significant note of correction about Jesus’ own role. We can see this especially in two appearances each of two different sayings:
- “I am with you always” is affirmed, but in both cases it means that he is really with us, really sharing himself with us. He is with us to share power with us; he is with us to offer his companionship to us.
- “I am the light of the world” is affirmed, but in both cases its connotation of Jesus being exalted far above us is definitely removed. He is the light of the world because he offers us his companionship and thus dispels the darkness of our loneliness. He is the light of the world means that he is here to share the light with us.
In other words, both sayings are given the same meaning: he is here to really be with us, really share himself with us, really give us everything that he has and is. That is what it means that he is with us always, that is how he is the light of the world. Given this sameness of meaning, it is no accident that the two sayings are explicitly put together in one of the Course’s passages.
I am the light of the world
When I said “I am come as a light into the world,” I meant that I came to share the light with you. (T-5.VI.11:1)
Jesus’ statement “I am the light of the world” appears to elevate him. Here, however, he puts a different spin on it. Rather than being about how great he is, it is about him wanting to share the light with us. It becomes a statement of how loving and inclusive he is, not about how exclusive his exalted status is.
If I go I will send you another Comforter
I myself said, “If I go I will send you another Comforter and He will abide with you.” (T-5.I.4:4)
This is just Jesus drawing upon what he said in the Bible, without commenting on it one way or the other.
I come not to bring peace but a sword/Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?
If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” |s3 This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. |s4 Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. |s5 I could not have said, “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” unless I believed in betrayal. |s6 The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. (T-6.I.15:2-6)
The saying “I come not to bring peace but a sword” was a misquote. It came from the fact that the disciples felt guilty, and so anticipated the sword of divine wrath.
The saying “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” was a misquote. It came from the fact that the disciples misunderstood Jesus; they thought he believed in betrayal when in fact he didn’t.
I am with you always
When I said “I am with you always,” I meant it literally. |s8 I am not absent to anyone in any situation. |s9 Because I am always with you, <you> are the way, the truth and the life. |s10 You did not make this power, any more than I did. |s11 It was created to be shared, and therefore cannot be meaningfully perceived as belonging to anyone at the expense of another. (T-7.III.1:7-11)
His statement “I am with you always” was meant absolutely literally. It applies to everyone all the time. But he uses its literalness to produce a leveling, an equality between him and us. Because he is with us, he shares the power of “the way, the truth and the life” with us, a power that was created by God, not him, and created to be shared by everyone.
I am with you always/I am the light of the world
I said that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. |s5 That is why I am the light of the world. |s6 If I am with you in the loneliness of the world, the loneliness is gone. |s7 You cannot maintain the illusion of loneliness if you are not alone. (T-8.IV.2:4-7)
He is the light of the world because he is with us always. The darkness he dispels is the darkness of aloneness. The light he brings is the light of companionship. This again puts a softer meaning on him being the light of the world, a meaning that does not raise him above us but puts him with us.
My peace I give unto you
When I said, “My peace I give unto you,” I meant it. |s7 Peace comes from God through me to you. |s8 It is for you although you may not ask for it. (T-10.III.6:6-8)
He says he meant literally “My peace I give unto you.” He also emphasizes that his peace is for us. God intended it for us.
Blessed are ye who have not seen and still believe
It is not until beliefs are fixed that perceptions stabilize. |s4 In effect, then, what you believe you <do> see. |s5 That is what I meant when I said, “Blessed are ye who have not seen and still believe,” for those who believe in the resurrection will see it. (T-11.VI.1:3-5)
“Blessed are ye who have not seen and still believe” because believing will lead to seeing. You see what you believe. If you have not seen the resurrection (the original context of the saying, which was about doubting Thomas) but you believe in it, you will see it. One wonders if this isn’t meant to correct the impression that you are supposed to believe and believe without ever seeing the justification for what you believe.
Sell all you have and give to the poor
I once asked you to sell all you have and give to the poor and follow me. |s2 This is what I meant: If you have no investment in anything in this world, you can teach the poor where their treasure is. |s3 The poor are merely those who have invested wrongly, and they are poor indeed! |s4 Because they are in need it is given you to help them, since you are among them. |s5 Consider how perfectly your lesson would be learned if you were unwilling to share their poverty. |s6 For poverty is lack, and there is but one lack since there is but one need. (T-12.III.1:1-6)
This is a fascinating reinterpretation, which only becomes clear in light of several paragraphs (I’ve only quoted the first one here). Everything in the original saying has been reinterpreted:
- The poor are now those who have invested in the world
- Selling all you have means selling your investment in the world
- giving to the poor means giving them a demonstration of having no investment in the world
This means that, rather than selling your worldly goods and giving the proceeds to the physically poor, you sell your investment in the world and give the benefits of that to the spiritually poor. Here is how you do it:
- A poor person displays his poverty by insisting you do something, thus showing his investment in the world
- You sell your investment by not being invested in not doing it
- You give to him by going ahead and doing it, thus demonstrating a freedom from investment in the world
The issue now doesn’t involve normal poverty, either relieving the poverty of others or adopting a kind of holy poverty yourself. The problem is not poverty, the virtue is not poverty. The problem is investment in the world, in how things go outside of us. The virtue is freedom from that investment.
The meek shall inherit the earth
It is hard to believe a defense that cannot attack is the best defense. |s4 This is what is meant by “the meek shall inherit the earth.” |s5 They will literally take it over because of their strength. (T-2.II.7:3-5)
The meek shall inherit the earth seems to mean that they are weak but deserving, and so God will give them dominion over the earth. Rather, it means that in their refusal to attack they are strong. And in their strength they will take over the earth (but in a totally non-attacking way).
Judge not that ye be not judged
When the Bible says “Judge not that ye be not judged,” it means that if you judge the reality of others you will be unable to avoid judging your own. (T-3.VI.1:4)
“Judge not that ye be not judged” does not mean that if you judge God will judge you. It means that if you judge, you will judge yourself.
Go the extra mile
The Bible says that you should go with a brother twice as far as he asks. |s2 It certainly does not suggest that you set him back on his journey. |s3 Devotion to a brother cannot set you back either. |s4 It can lead only to mutual progress. |s5 The result of genuine devotion is inspiration, a word which properly understood is the opposite of fatigue. (T-4.In.1:1-5)
You should go with a brother twice as far as he asks because devotion to a brother can lead only to both of you making progress. In other words, the image of physical travel has been turned into spiritual travel. If you go with a brother along the road physically, you both will advance spiritually.
Become as little children
The Bible tells you to become as little children. |s2 Little children recognize that they do not understand what they perceive, and so they ask what it means. |s3 Do not make the mistake of believing that you understand what you perceive, for its meaning is lost to you. (T-11.VIII.2:1-3)
Becoming as a little child is not a reference to innocence or weakness, but a reference to recognizing that, like a child, you don’t understand what you perceive and asking the Holy Spirit what it means.