If Jesus already saved the world, what are we still doing here?

Question: In the Manual for Teachers, it says, "One sin perfectly forgiven by one teacher of God can make salvation complete" (M-14.3:7). I know there are other Manual references to the idea that it takes only one Son of God to do this and save us all. Isn't that what Jesus did? If so, shouldn't we be free of all illusions now?

Answer: Later in that same paragraph, the Manual says that no one here can understand this, so any answer to this question isn't going to tie up every loose end. But here's my take on this, based on Course references to the topic.

The Course does indeed say that only one teacher of God can save us all. The section entitled "How many teachers of God are needed to save the world?" (M-14) says the answer to this question is one: "One wholly perfect teacher, whose learning is complete, suffices" (M-12.1:2). Later on in the Manual, in a section that is speaking about Jesus in the third person, we are told unequivocally that he was this one: "We have repeatedly said that one who has perfectly accepted the Atonement for himself can heal the world. Indeed, he [Jesus] has already done so" (M-23.2:1-2).

Why, then, do we still seem to be schlepping around in this illusion? In short, because we're obstinately refusing to accept the gift Jesus is offering us. The Course refers many times to a paradox around the giving of spiritual gifts. On the one hand, it says that whenever a true gift of the spirit is offered to anyone, it is always accepted on a deep level of the mind. On the other hand, if the person is consciously afraid of that gift (which will be the case when that person is still heavily invested in the ego), she will refuse the gift on a more surface level of the mind. Therefore, the gift will not be consciously experienced.

An earlier section of the Manual, "Is healing certain?" M-6, has a good discussion of this. It begins by saying, "Healing is always certain" (M-6.1:1), and then goes on to say that when a person is threatened by healing, it will be stored in the "storehouse of treasures" in his mind until the time he is ready to fully accept it:

Healing will always stand aside when it would be seen as threat. The instant it is welcome it is there. Where healing has been given it will be received. And what is time before the gifts of God? We have referred many times in the text to the storehouse of treasures laid up equally for the giver and the receiver of God's gifts….[The gift] will be accepted when it is recognized as a blessing and not a curse. (M-6.2:1-5, 9)

The scenario described here is essentially the situation of everyone in the world. Because his "learning is complete," Jesus has already given us all the gift of salvation, and somewhere deep in our minds, we have already received it. (Indeed, we all received it way back at the beginning, when the Holy Spirit ended the dream the instant it began.) But we're still so heavily invested in the ego that we're pushing away the gift, and it can't be forced on us. We won't fully accept it until we recognize it as a blessing and not a curse.

This recognition can happen at any time. "Because your will is free you can accept what has already happened at any time you choose, and only then will you realize that it was always there" (M-2.3:5). And this is where the Course comes in. Its program is designed to show us how painful the ego is and how joyous the spirit is, so we will be motivated to accept what has already happened much sooner than we otherwise would. Through walking the Course's path, the gift Jesus gave when he saved the world will become more and more welcome to us, until the day finally arrives when it is fully welcome. Then we will consciously experience the salvation that has already happened, for "the instant it is welcome it is there."

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