A Course in Miracles Lesson 170

There is no cruelty in God and none in me.

Lesson 170 asks us to consider that we are confused about the difference between fear and love – that we are calling fear love, and worshipping it accordingly, and as a consequence are actually afraid of love.

This reversal divides us against ourselves, making peace impossible.

Fear seems to protect us, right? It seems like a rational response to a threat against our safety and well-being. It’s a sign that we are under attack and need to defend ourselves. A snarling dog, a man pointing a gun, a diagnosis of incurable cancer . . . fear makes sense, no? Only a fool would argue otherwise.

And yet A Course in Miracles suggests that this belief in the reasonableness of fear is actually a block to love because it can be used to justify attack in the form of self-defense. Hurt is always both the objective and outcome of attack but calling it “self-defense” allows us to avoid responsibility for that hurt. Attack is always cruel and yet “no cruelty abides in us, for there is none in God” (W-pI.170.13:2). What gives?

It seems to be the enemy without that you attack. Yet your defense sets up an enemy within . . . love now has an “enemy,” an opposite; and fear, the alien, now needs your defense against the threat of what you really are (W-pI.170.3:1-3).

The projection of fear outside of us – and the subsequent cycles of attack and defense, as we rage in vain against a mirage – is not a crime against God or nature. It’s just a colossal waste of time. The better way – the way of healing – is to challenge our belief in the “necessity and reasonableness” of fear because it justifies attack. We listen to the Voice for Love, the Holy Spirit, Who asks us to “lay down all defenses as merely foolish” (W-pI.170.5:4).

It is important to give attention to the depths at which we do not believe that “laying down all defenses” makes sense. We have to see how deeply we cherish our supposed right to self-defense, how literally everything in our world is connected to this “right.” We believe that if we give up self-defense, we’ll die.

When we begin to glimpse the enormity of this challenge, then we begin to understand just how radical A Course in Miracles truly is. Just as the historical Jesus advocated and practiced nonviolence, so are we called to that beautiful and demanding tradition in which we lay aside our many weapons of attack – and the argument for self-defense upon which they all depend – to watch them “crumble into dust” because dust is all they ever were (W-pI.170.5:5-6).

Now do your eyes belong to Christ, and He looks through them. Now your voice belongs to God and echoes His. And now your heart remains at peace forever . . . Now has fear made way for love, as God Himself replaces cruelty (W-pI.170.12:1-3, 6).

Is it clear? We become nonviolent because attack is never justified (T-30.VI.1:1). Cruelty can never be a source of solace, grace or safety. Nor are there exceptions to this rule (e.g., W-pI.170.1:2). When we accept this, and live accordingly, then the world is made new. Only the perfection of our brothers and sisters is remembered. It is in this state that we are ready for God to take the last step (T-13.VIII.3:2).

This is a choice we actively make! Here in these bodies in this world we actively choose to let go of every justification for attack, and instead seek only to be a means by which the memory of God’s love is restored to all minds.

We have reached this decision many times before and always turned back without making it (W-pI.170.11:3). The god of cruelty and attack assumes many forms, all of them deceptive, all of which demand we reject our power to choose love and instead worship in paralysis at the altar of fear (W-pI.170.8:6-7). And we have listened. We have obeyed.

Lesson 170 reminds us repeatedly that the decision to become a peacemaker rather than a hostage to fear “can be terrible” (W-pI.170.8:1). Of course we have walked away from it. But it can also be the moment of our release, if we are willing to look at the decision clearly, accept the Holy Spirit’s evaluation of it, and become responsibility for choosing again.

How shall we do this?

The lesson suggests that the answer to this question can be found in the Fourth Obstacle to Peace in Chapter Nineteen of the Text. There, we learn that the final and greatest obstacle to love is our fear of God. We are sworn to forget this obstacle exists, let alone commit to its undoing.

How do we face our fear of God?

Together. We face it together.

A Course in Miracles is clear that the way we remember – and bring to light – this final daunting obstacle is by forgiving our brothers and sisters. We do not reach this juncture alone, and we cannot go forward from it alone either. We need each other to establish the mutuality of forgiveness.

Beside you is one who offers you the chalice of Atonement, for the Holy Spirit is in him. Would you hold his sins against him, or accept his gift to you? Is this giver of salvation your friend or enemy? Choose which he is, remembering that you will receive of him according to your choice (T-19.IV.D.13:1-4).

In other words, we remember love by forgiving our brothers and sisters – by seeing in them only the perfection of Creation, untouched by the vicious judgments of the ego. When that is all we see in others, then we will understand that we merely perceive our own reflection. There is only holiness in Creation. What else could we see? And when that is all we see, what possible justification for conflict remains?

If you want to remember Heaven, then do Heaven. Be Heaven.

On this view, Lesson 170 is a watershed moment in our practice. Think back to those early first lessons, when we were looking around at things, coming to terms with the power of our mind to define and categorize them, effectively giving meaning to literally everything. Here we do something similar, but with exponentially greater depth and power.

You make what you defend against, and by your own defense against it is it real and inescapable. Lay down your arms, and only then do you perceive it false (W-pI.170.2:6-7).

We have this moment together, you and I: shall we not, together, create the peace we are created to create?

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      1. Beautiful last line:

        “We have this moment together, you and I: shall we, not together, create the peace we were created to create”.

        Thank you Sean.


    1. When I was growing up I knew a priest who used to tell us “do the Kingdom.” I’m glad you liked it, Janine. Hope all all is well 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

  1. “…[fear] is not a crime against God or nature. It’s just a colossal waste of time.” So true. I heard someone say once that fear is like a rocking chair. It gives us something to do, but we don’t go anywhere.

    And the idea from ACIM that our greatest and final obstacle to love is our fear of God – wow. Before ACIM, I never once considered this reality. I was spiritually paralyzed by this obstacle, and at the same time wasn’t aware of it. The organized church, the bible (particularly the old testament) helped perpetuate the ludicrous idea that God is to be feared. Even Santa Claus, an early stand-in for God, engendered fear. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness sake.” Sounds like a veiled threat. .😊

    Thankfully, with the help of ACIM and other spiritual work, on my good days I’m coming to understand a God who is perfect Love, and perfect love always casts out fear. Thanks for sharing this Sean.

    1. You’re welcome, Mark. Thank you for reading.

      One of the early profound moments for me with ACIM was Lessons 79 and 80. The day after those lessons were completed I walked the dog in morning darkness and had this absolutely terrifying moment of realizing that the God I had been working with was closer to Jonathan Edwards’ God than ACIM’s. It was such a shock to me. And it was a moment of real commitment to the course, because I realized that I hadn’t even known how dysfunctional my relationship with the divine was.

      There have been a handful of course moments like that – where it’s like leveling up really fast, or dropping down a few hundred turtles all at once, pick your metaphor – but that one was a big deal.

      Fear as a rocking chair . . . I love that. But I love rockers too!!

      Talk soon,

  2. Dear Sean, I often smile and even laugh at how timely your observations are for me, both in my spiritual “process” (I’m sitting in my kitchen rocking chair as I write this, ever so aptly) and in my worldly concerns. I don’t weigh in here often, but please know I am reading and deeply appreciating what you bring for our consideration. Thank you so much.

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