Some two thousand years ago, Saint Paul referred to Jesus as teaching that it was better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). He may well have been paraphrasing this lesson:
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .
This theme is summed up neatly in the famous prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi (emphasis mine):
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
It is, of course, a major theme of A Course in Miracles as well. Indeed, the longer I study and try to make the course my daily spiritual practice, the more I realize that it contains no vision of Heaven that does not run straight through you – my brother or sister. And so long as I would exclude one of you to even the slightest degree, then Heaven itself shall remain but an aspiration.
Is it too much to ask a little trust of him who carries Christ to you, that you may be forgiven all your sins, and left without a single one you cherish still? Forget not that a shadow held between your brother and yourself obscures the face of Christ and the Memory of God (T-26.IX.2:1-2).
The shadow to which I cling and the resultant obscurity is all the more painful because the face of Christ and the memory of God are here now – in a very literal and tangible way. We are not awaiting deliverance; we are refusing it by refusing to love one another.
And while you see your brother as a body, apart from you and separate in his cell, you are demanding sacrifice of him and you. What greater sacrifice could be demanded than that God’s Son perceive himself without his Father? And his Father be without His Son (T-26.I.4:2-4)?
I think this is a very important idea for course students, one that cannot be emphasized enough. We are not becoming holy, we are holy. We are not waiting on Jesus, Jesus is already here and waits on us. The pain of separation ends when we reach out to one another in love. Period. Nor need the reaching out be bold and decisive and poetic and worthy of a Spielberg movie. It can be tentative and shaky and shy. Jesus will construct a banquet from the crumbs of love we offer. We can trust that.
We have to be clear that our relationships – you and me, me and my people, you and yours – is all there is. That alone is the way to Heaven. It’s clear, simple and non-negotiable. And really, thank God for that.
We will not recognize what we receive until we give it. You have heard this said a hundred ways, a hundred times, and yet belief is lacking still. But this is sure; until belief is given it, you will receive a thousand miracles and then receive a thousand more, but you will not know that God Himself has left no gift beyond what you already have; nor has denied the tiniest of blessings to His Son. What can this mean to you, until you have identified with Him and with His Own (W-pI.154.12:1-4)?
It’s a good question.