Benjamin J. Onelove is a student in the Community Miracles Center's ACIM-2 class. As part of meeting the requirements for completion of that class and for ordination, Mr. Onelove has submittted the following article for publication in *Miracles Monthly*.
Greetings. The goal of this article is to demonstrate that there is a rational, logical link between the thought system of the Old Testament, New Testament, and A Course in Miracles concerning the notion that forgiveness by itself has the capacity to remove all sin from people. To accomplish this, I will direct your attention through selected references from each of the texts aiming to recognize the consistent role that forgiveness plays throughout God's plan of salvation.
The very first occurrence of the use of "forgiveness" in the Bible comes to us from Genesis 50:17. "This is what you are to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.' When their message came to him, Joseph wept."
In the above paragraph, notice two things. First of all Joseph is being asked by his father Jacob to forgive his brothers. This is amazing to me because it seems to foreshadow what Jesus asks his listeners to do in his Sermon on the Mount. (discussed more below)
Secondly, the fact that Jacob is asking Joseph to forgive his brothers implies that Joseph has the power to forgive his brothers just by choosing to do so. It is important for me to point out that among several references in the Old Testament, many of the other apparent requirements necessary to forgive, or be forgiven, involve animal sacrifice. However, it's worth noting that this is in fact the first reference to forgiveness that I can see in the Bible. Therefore, in my opinion it sets a precedent.
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The idea of "forgiving our brothers" is so widespread in A Course in Miracles that it may as well be the title of the book! Here is one of the many references to this same concept in ACIM. "Forgiveness is the key to happiness. I would awaken from the dream that I am a mortal, fallible, and full of sin, and know I am the perfect son of God." (CE.W-121.13:3-4)
Now let's consider two selected references on forgiveness in the New Testament. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus teaches in his Sermon on the Mount, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins."
In A Course in Miracles the concept above referenced is paralleled in what appears to be a more modern, and perhaps more sophisticated, way thorough using the vernacular than what we are accustomed to reading from the Bible. Yet, the idea remains consistent albeit subsumed in a greater context of understanding. This is something that the Course is ever refreshing in supplying to our modern Christian culture.
Many of the concepts in the Bible are undeniably universal, timeless, and true. Yet, the passage of time demands a refreshing revelation, clarification, and contextualization of that which is timeless and universal in the Bible. To all that we experience here and now, the Course readily supplies this. With that need in mind, consider Mathew 6:14 in light of this from A Course in Miracles:
"God's laws are always fair and perfectly consistent. By giving you receive. But to receive is to accept, not to get. It is impossible not to have, but it is possible not to know you have. The recognition of having is the willingness for giving, and only by this willingness can you recognize what you have. What you give is therefore the value you put on what you have, being the exact measure of the value you put upon it. And this, in turn, is the measure of how much you want it." (CE.T-9.II.12:1-7)
I recommend reading the above paragraph at least five times slowly to really comprehend the logic of it. Then recognize that to give forgiveness to others is to simultaneously recognize that God has forgiven us. We were always forgiven by God, yet we can not recognize this truth without extending it. As we extend forgiveness to others, we recognize finally what has already been always true within us. We are eternally innocent children of God. The degree to which we want to recognize this becomes the motivation for how much we prove this to others about themselves. Then we may accept deeper and deeper still what is eternally true yet waiting to be received in full measure regarding our true Self.
"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming!' Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, ‘Get up and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.' Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man." (Matthew 9:1-8 NIV)
This story is summarized exquisitely in the 22nd principal of A Course in Miracles Complete Edition which states: "Miracles are natural expressions of total forgiveness. Through miracles, you affirm your acceptance of God's forgiveness by extending it to others." (CE.T-1.I.22:1-2)
This is exactly what Jesus did for the paralyzed man. He forgave, the man was healed, and the man walked. In short, true forgiveness is a miracle and may often produce miraculous results.
In the above two biblical references we learn two very important concepts. The first is that under the laws of God, it is in giving that we receive. All we need to do to have (or accept) our perfect innocence in the laws of God is to see, extend, accept, and believe in the perfect innocence of other people. How can we do that? By extending true compassionate, heartfelt forgiveness to everyone we know.
The second very important concept we learn is that not only does forgiveness lead to our acceptance of the perfect innocence given to us in our creation by God but it may also produce miracles of healing. When Jesus forgave this paralyzed man and told him with authority that his sins were gone and wiped clean with forgiveness, then he was able to tell the man to get up and walk and the man walked! The man was first spiritually/psychologically healed and then physically healed.
We can also take from this lesson that sickness and suffering, and perhaps even death itself, could all be expressions of our own guilt and self hatred. Forgiveness wipes everything clean and allows the natural healing of God's love to flow through us. I say this because the moment that the paralyzed man knew that his sins had been forgiven him, he was healed.
What to take away from this first section: The father figure (Jacob, another name for Israel) asks his favorite son, Joseph, to forgive all his brothers.
Jesus, the messiah and son of God, is asked by God to forgive his brothers, whom are all the people of the world. Jesus is also asked to teach us to forgive one another. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man (pardons the man's sins) letting the man know by his expression of forgiveness that the man is innocent and a healing miracle naturally followed. Amazing!
Now, let us consider the crucifixion. Is there any consistent message from Jesus himself that would suggest it is only blood that grants forgiveness? During the actual crucifixion, was there anything to suggest that forgiveness itself was the driving force in the salvation of the world? Was there anything to suggest the wiping clean of people's sins as Jesus wiped clean the sins of those he ministered to day to day throughout his ministry?
Let's begin to respond to these 2 questions by looking at the actual references Jesus himself made to his own crucifixion and resurrection from the Holy Bible.
Please read the following passages from a New International Version of the Bible: Matthew 12:39-40, Matthew 16:2-4, Luke 11:29, Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33-34, Luke 9:22, John 2:18-19, and Mark 14:58.
As I read through these passages, I could sense a sort of organization on behalf of the Holy Spirit. We see a clear theme that Jesus will be rejected by the chief priests and teachers of the law. This is very interesting because the teachers of the law are the ones who are upholding the tradition from the Torah. The Torah clearly stated and prophesied everything that the Messiah would do which Jesus actually fulfilled in his lifetime.
In a sense, God was giving these people the greatest opportunity to ask questions of Jesus, to scrutinize his character, to get to know personally and deeply intimately everything they and their parents for many generations would have loved to know about the messiah. These people were given the opportunity to prove for themselves that he is the person that they have been waiting for, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. There's a sort of divine justice in that. That says God has heard their prayers and is coming first and foremost to the people that have been anticipating him.
What is ironic, and so tragic, is that those teachers of the law were in many cases the last to accept Jesus. Even to this day many of these teachers do not accept Jesus. How sad would Jacob be to know that his descendants would stand before the one who's spirit Jacob had served with all of his heart, mind, and body, and spit on him in the flesh. It's immeasurably sad.
Interestingly though, the teachers of the law are not the ones who killed Jesus. The Gentiles did. Who are the Gentiles? The Gentiles are everyone in the world that are not Jewish. In the case of the crucifixion, they are the Roman soldiers.
And in the passages cited above, I also see that after being in the earth for three days Jesus was to be raised to life. The resurrection to me is the climax of Jesus's entire ministry, his entire life, and the entire life of every person in the Bible from the Torah to the New Testament. In the final demonstration of the resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth made it clear with absolute authority, even authority over death, that everything he taught was actually grounded in a supernatural eternal reality of which he had intimate communion with. In plain English, he was keeping it real. He taught the truth.
Notice, if you will, how up to this point there has been no mention whatsoever from Jesus himself that his blood itself would wipe away sin. Jesus didn't say, "When I am crucified my blood will flow down and cover you with innocence." Neither did he say, "If you bathe in my blood when I'm crucified then you will be forgiven all your sins." Neither did he say "When I am crucified, if you just remember that I died for your sins and my blood washes you free from sin, then you'll be saved." He didn't say any of those things. Yet interestingly, the majority of our western Christian culture emphatically declares that "We are saved by the blood of Jesus."
Is that consistent with Jesus's teaching and ministry? Is that consistent with the statement he made on the sermon of the mount when he told his listeners that if they forgave their brothers of their sins then God would forgive them of their sins? Is that consistent with what Jesus said to the paralyzed young man when he said to him "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven… Get up, take your mat and go home." (Matthew 9:2, 6 NIV)
Did Jesus sprinkle a little bit of his blood on anyone when he healed them? Did he sacrifice animal's blood on any of the people for whom he performed miracles either on the streets or from a distance? Did he perform ritual sacrifice of animals some day of the week and splatter that blood symbolically around his alter or himself? No, no, no, not at all.
So, then what did Jesus actually say if anything about the relationship between blood and sin? "Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:27-29 NIV)
Okay, now we have something. There is a clear statement that blood is being poured out symbolically as wine in the present tense in this passage and that this blood represents the forgiveness of sins.
Notice how forgiveness in this context is just another example of Jesus' ongoing teachings on forgiveness up to this point in the Bible. The wine is being shared with his disciples as an expression of forgiveness and generosity while sharing a meal together. This is like Jesus saying, "Hey, I love you. Let's have a great meal together and see each other as God does, free from sin through forgiveness, which I've been saying to you all along."
Now of course, there's nothing symbolic about the blood shed on the cross, so perhaps there's something more to notice here. After all, up to this point all Jesus' prophesies and allusions to the major events of the crucifixion and resurrection are predicting events which have not yet taken place. When those do, with hindsight, perhaps we will be able to look back on what he said with greater clarity and understanding.
Allow me to direct your attention to the very last moments of Jesus' life before he was to deliver the sign of Jonah. "When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." (Luke 23:33-34 NIV)
Forgive them! Forgive them! Forgive them! Can you see now how clearly and consistently forgiveness has been taught from the beginning to the end? The crucifixion was, and is the most extreme punishment, the most severe anguish that anyone in this world can experience. Jesus took that in and in that moment, he forgave us all.
Do you see how, without the crucifixion, there would not be the severe temptation to overcome anger, attack, and resentment? Jesus could have called down 12 legions of angels at any moment (Mathew 26:53) to end his suffering and wipe out every Roman and Jewish authority on the earth! In an instant. But no, he sustained and responded with forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the golden thread running throughout this entire story. It's in Genesis from Jacob to Joseph to his brothers. It's in Jesus' ministry at the Sermon on the Mount and in the forgiveness of the paralyzed man. It's there at the last moments of Jesus' life just before his final moments on the cross.
The blood flowed out for us to witness, in order for him to demonstrate responding with forgiveness to his "enemies" under the most extreme conditions. If Jesus can forgive that, we can forgive anything. If we are willing to learn from his example of forgiving no matter what, then there's no need to suffer ourselves anymore. Similarly, to how when the crippled man knew he was forgiven, he was healed. In the same way, when we forgive our fellow man, we are healed.
Now the story doesn't end there. It continues. We as followers of Jesus Christ live in an entirely new world. In the former world death was the final authority. In the New World Christ gives us authority over death. We are not left helpless.We are given the Holy Spirit who brings us power, protection, and authority from on high, from heaven, from a dimension of timelessness and ever-present love.
We do not need to suffer. We do not need to sacrifice. Jesus' demonstration was the final sacrifice and to not make use of it is either foolishness, ignorance, or arrogance. To be clear, I am not saying that you are ignorant, foolish or arrogant if you're not a follower of Jesus. What I am saying is that it is foolishness, ignorance, and arrogance that keeps us from knowing the true power of forgiveness! This is about the message more so than the messenger!
As far as I am concerned, the messenger literally overcame death through true forgiveness. Now for many of my readers the relationship between forgiveness and overcoming death might be such a stretch that it seems at first to be in comprehensible, irrational, or illogical. But again, Jesus has not left us comfortless. Where the New Testament ends, A Course in Miracles begins.
Let us now turn to the Course and illuminate the simplicity of its message. The Course demonstrates how it is simply carrying on the theme of forgiveness that Jesus started to teach in his ministry to levels and depths of application that may not have been fathomed hitherto.
Here is a summary of the Course from the introduction itself:
"This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God." (CE.In.2:1-4)
A Course in Miracles is a new way of thinking, or shall we say a revival or renaissance of thinking the way that Jesus thinks. Seeing people, the way he sees them, forgiving the way he forgave them which allows us to love people the way he loves them. It's at least a two-year process just to complete the Course proper, and a lifetime to practice. Yet, everything that it teaches, culminates in a single instant of true forgiveness. So, two years to learn, a lifetime to practice, and any single instant to accomplish.
Below are a few words of wisdom from the elder brother, a term Jesus uses to describe himself in the Course. I hope that they tickle and enliven your spirit with resonant divine power the way they did for mine when I first read, recognized, and absorbed them into the depths of my spirit.
"Miracles are natural expressions of total forgiveness. Through miracles, man accepts God's forgiveness by extending it to others." (OrEd.Tx.1.21)
"Miracles are part of an interlocking chain of forgiveness which, when completed, is the Atonement. This process works all the time and in all the dimensions of time." (CE.T-1.24.1:1-2)
"A miracle is a universal blessing from God through me to all my brothers. It is the privilege of the forgiven to forgive. Souls cannot rest until everyone has found salvation. The disciples were officially and specifically told to heal others, as physicians of the Lord. They were also told to heal themselves. And they were promised that I would never leave them or forsake them. Atonement is the natural profession of the children of God, because they have professed me. The children need both strength and help. You cannot help until you are strong. The everlasting arms are your strength, and the wisdom of God is your help. (CE.T-1.27.1- 3)
A Course in Miracles is to me the most profound and personally moving source of living wisdom in literature that I ever encountered in my young adult life. I discovered it around the age of nineteen. At thirty-one years of age today, it still blows my mind and brings a sense of awe and amazement to my heart and spirit. It's the kind of book I can read ten times, pick it up one more time, and read the first sentence and just be blown away like I've never seen it before.
The concepts contained in the Course to me are timeless and universal. The application of its teaching has become the joy of my life and the commitment of my spirit in good faith to Jesus Christ for the complete salvation of the world. In moments of clarity like this, I can say with total honesty that it truly is my greatest pleasure to serve God's will. I find traction in that by practicing what Jesus instructs me.
In the Old Testament with father Jacob to the New Testament with Jesus Christ and now in the new revelation I have from A Course in Miracles, I find my calling as I respond to Jesus' command to love my neighbor as myself, to forgive my brothers so that I may be forgiven, and to not rest until everyone has found salvation. I hope this paper serves as a bridge for Jesus between the traditions of the Torah, the New Testament, and A Course in Miracles, and the communities that use them.
I don't think it's necessary for all of us to read and agree on all the information in all those scriptures. Yet I believe that if we can recognize the importance of forgiveness in all of them, and extend that to one another, we're all going to find ourselves together someday awake in the presence of the same God, the Mother and Father of us all and of everything.
May peace prevail on earth. ♥
Benjamin J. Onelove was a student in CMC's Minister-in-Training program and wrote this article as part of his study.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the March 2019 (Vol. 33 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.