If we want to learn how to seek salvation, then we have to consider our relationship with what is external to us. To want anything from the world but salvation is to forgo salvation entirely. A Course in Miracles does not equivocate on this point.
Perception cannot obey two masters, each asking for messages of different things in different languages (T-19.IV.A.i.11:3).
We compromise on this all the time. We want a certain income, a certain body, a certain partner, a certain house. We want a certain kind of psychological security – admiration, love, respect. We are very good at hiding these wants – if we truly saw their ruinous nature we would drop them like stones – but they are there. Yet the gift of ACIM is that as we study, as we deepen, they are gently but surely lifted into our awareness. What will do with them?
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.
It is so simple and clear. Jesus came and taught us – his followers preserved it for posterity. It is just a question of priority – of placing salvation before all else, of forgiving the world instead of acting in and on it. But we won’t do it. And the world of pain and hatred and guilt and fear goes on. We are responsible for it and we don’t want to see that. We want to be happy and well-fed and entertained. Seldom do we contemplate the truth of beautiful prayer of St. Francis: the sacredness of making others happy, feeding others, creating stories and songs for others. In giving we receive is a law of Heaven but we deny it. We don’t want to hear it.
The compromise doesn’t hurt just us. It is important to see this. When I get casual about salvation, you are implicated. We don’t wake up alone and we don’t slumber through nightmares alone either. The content of the individual nightmares might change – and might not, too – but the structure is the same. The form is the same. We don’t want to be free of the ego entirely – we just want to keep it a secret. We want to tone it down a little. We settle for tolerable – or try to – and our misery continues. We languish in a prison of our own making.
Most of the time, I object to this characterization. It’s not practical, I say. After all, I have a family to feed and shelter. It’s one thing for a single man to walk around pretending he’s the functional equivalent of a lily in the field or a bird in the sky, but I’ve got responsibilities. Jesus will have to deal with it. Who would blame me?
That is compromise. That is settling. That is putting the Kingdom of God into the mix and letting it get all swirled up with everything else: family, work, taxes, mortgage payments, vet bills, syllabi, family reunions et cetera. It doesn’t make Jesus gnash his teeth. It doesn’t make the Holy Spirit recoil in shock. But it does keep salvation ever distant, ever out of reach. If the atonement is just an ideal – something nice we’ll get to one of these days – then it’s just another projection and we will never reach it, just as you can never reach a rainbow’s end.
From time to time it comes to this: it gets this clear. The story of Jesus calling his disciples is instructive – a powerful symbol of faith. “Follow me,” he said and they dropped everything and followed. They sought first the Kingdom of God. But we’re too sophisticated. Too smart or something. We know better, or we think we do. We’ll get to it one of these days. But in every moment the call goes out and we can answer: we can choose again: yes. Yes. I’ll follow. I’ll put the Kingdom first.
It takes faith. It takes trust. There is so much we won’t release – our children, our supposed duties, our desire for safety, all of it. We think salvation means loss because that’s the law of the world. It’s all we know – to give is to give up, period. We can’t imagine a grace that would awaken us without separating us from what we hold dear. Yet the world of light to which we would be led asks nothing of us.
This world of light, this circle of brightness is the real world, where guilt meets with forgiveness. Here the world outside is seen anew, without the shadow of guilt upon it . . . Here is the new perception, where everything is bright and shining with innocence, washed in the waters of forgiveness, and cleansed of every evil thought you laid upon it (T-18.IX.9:1-2, 4).
Here the world outside is seen anew . . . Not destroyed, not ended, not vanquished. Just . . . new. Who would not want it? Who would not rush into the savior’s arms, ready at last to enter the Kingdom?
We make it harder than it has to be. Jesus is patient but that doesn’t mean there’s no urgency. Look around you. Read the signs of the times – the hunger, the violence, the loneliness. If we aren’t ready to end it now, then when?