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Reading A Course in Miracles: The Atonement as Defense

This section of A Course in Miracles calls us to defend Truth by denying the power of error to hurt us in any way. We know that we are deferring to error’s supposed power whenever we feel doubt or fear. These feelings impede our miracle-working abilities. They render the Atonement inaccessible. They block the way to Heaven.

In our day and age – and in our psychological lingo – denial gets a bad rap. We are used to its negative connotations – i.e., its use to hide the truth. Alcoholics deny the affect their drinking has on family members and so never have to get sober. Teachers deny that their arrogance is intimidating students and so the students never ask for help and never learn. In this view, denial creates a vicious circle that only repeats the fundamental error. Healing never happens.

However, Jesus is explicitly stating that there is also a positive use of denial. If we use it to deny the ability of error – alternatively called a lack of love or sin – to injure us, then we are using appropriately. Indeed, to deny the power of error is to affirm the power of Truth. This is the right use – or perhaps a Christ-use – of this mind tool.

Learning how to deny as a defense of truth leads to one of my favorite passages in the entire course:

The means are easier to understand after the value of the goal is firmly established. It is a question of what it is for. Everyone defends his treasure, and will do so automatically. The real questions are, what do you treasure and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these questions and to bring them into all your actions, you will have little difficult in clarifying the means. The means are available whenever you ask (T-2.II.3:2-7).

This, of course, echoes the beautiful passages in Matthew’s Gospel about where we “lay up” our treasure.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

And a few sentences later, the helpful reminder that a person cannot “serve two masters:”

for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Or as the course puts it: “The Atonement is a total commitment” (T-2.II.7:1).

Thus, in A Course in Miracles, Jesus is inviting us to clarify our intentions. We are being asked to set a very specific goal. If we can set our eyes on Heaven – if we can recognize that our sole problem is that we believe we are separated from God and that repairing that perceived break is the only healing that matters, the only goal that matters – then the means to achieve will be made instantly and simply available.

We should submit all things – work, relationships, prayer, parenting, health – to this one test: What is it for? Does it serve the separation or salvation? If it serves separation, let it fall to the wayside without a second thought. Allow only that which furthers the goal of salvation to be in your life. No compromises!

We are called to simplify our lives so that we might focus exclusively on returning to God. Nothing else matters. And the return is not complicated, either. The means are in fact already given to us. But setting this goal – making this our one objective to the obliteration of all others . . . that is a big deal. That is a challenge. We can delay making it for a long time.

Focusing solely on our return to God can seem impossible. It can seem like the work of spiritual super heroes and heroines. We’re not saints – we’re just people. I’ve got to make dinner later, put the kids to bed, talk to an editor about a story I’m working on. This is my life!

Yet take heed of the last sentences in this section. Our continual efforts to save and be saved are not without fruit. We make progress in time and that’s okay. Our awareness of the active protective value of the Atonement – God’s Love – increases in time and as it does we are able to extend our knowledge of it -and its security – to our brothers and sisters.

So this section then is an opportunity to reflect on our commitment to waking up. It is a road map to help us a) measure that commitment and b) bring it better into application. As such, it bears careful study. When we “get it,” we also get the tangible assistance of Jesus. Who doesn’t want a companion like that?

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