The vital quality of innocence
Cherishing our God-given innocence helps to propel our own and others’
ongoing progress as Christian followers.
Describing someone as “innocent” might sound rather negative, maybe indicating that they’re naive, unsophisticated, or unable to cope with life’s more complex challenges. To give another perspective, though, one definition for innocence in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is “freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil: Blamelessness.” As we become more closely acquainted with God, good, as pure divine Truth, we discover our God-given innocence and well-being as God’s reflection.
Correspondingly, we start to see evil impressions or suggestions as having no authority or place in our thinking and lives. This means we can actively refuse to engage with unhelpful, untruthful, divisive theories, including conspiracy theories from any viewpoint. This negative information can tend to overwhelm us, but holding thought to our God-given ability to express innocent trust in Him purifies our motives and our thinking.
This innocence isn’t unwise; it’s an intelligent, active response to the world’s needs. Biblical writers characterized innocence as a God-given quality to cherish and cultivate. The Apostle Paul, writing to the early Christians in Corinth about the worldly temptations they faced, reminds them to take care that their minds are not corrupted “from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3 ). Eugene Peterson’s The Message phrases it, “from the simple purity of your love for Christ.” The Greek word haplotēs, translated in the King James Version as simplicity, can also mean purity, generosity, or singleness of heart (see Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume). And these are certainly healthful and beneficial qualities to express.
Maintaining a pure, simple focus on Truth, God, enables us to disassociate ourselves from daily reports tempting us to believe we’re trapped mortals.
Maintaining a pure, simple focus on Truth, God, enables us to disassociate ourselves from a deluge of daily reports tempting us to believe and act as though we’re trapped mortals with no way out. We find that we can humbly trust divine Truth rather than default to a cynical viewpoint that insists on humanity’s materiality, vulnerability, and sinfulness.
Study of the Bible reveals that the God-derived quality of innocence has beneficial, healing results. Christ Jesus teaches in his Sermon on the Mount that those who are pure in heart are blessed and see, or understand, God. And Jesus’ many healings throughout his ministry proved that a pure, clear, consistent communing with God brings life-changing results.
Some years ago, while on holiday abroad, my family drove to a local beauty spot and walked to the beach. Realizing that we’d left something we needed in the car, I walked back to retrieve it. On reaching the car, I was very surprised to see the boot (trunk) open. We’d left our cameras, watches, and other items in there before going to the beach. Obviously, we hadn’t closed the boot of this unfamiliar rental car properly, and it had sprung open. The car park was very busy, with locals and tourists walking past the car. But I found that nothing had been moved or taken, even though our belongings were clearly visible. After closing and locking the car securely, I returned to my family. We rejoiced together at the innate purity and honesty of all God’s children. What has stayed with me since that modest experience is that not only were we protected that day from having items stolen but those passing by our rental car were God-impelled to express their inherent innocence and integrity.
In her main work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Christian thinker and healer Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, explores the correlation between innocence and the idea of God as Truth, writing, “Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error” (p. 568 ). This short but profound statement can provide insight into the power and authority of innocence as a quality of God, divine Truth and Mind.
It’s important to realize, though, that the spiritual quality of innocence isn’t at all the same as human naiveté. It isn’t about ignorance or hiding one’s head in the sand. That speaks of a lack of wisdom or sound judgment, which isn’t Godlike. Ignoring evil is not expressing spiritual innocence. “Overlooking is not overcoming,” an experienced church member once told me. Rather, genuine innocence is a trusting, pure confidence that God is all-powerful and all-present good. This carries with it the conviction that evil is not powerful because it’s not sanctioned by God, and can dissolve into its inherent unreality.
We may still ask how we can defend our innocence and not see it trampled by harsh life experiences. Mrs. Eddy’s writings, which are based on the Bible, show that our true innocence is established by God, and that despite what we may have been through, we can experience more innocence as we recognize it as our true nature and live in accord with what has been God-bestowed.
If we’re concerned that we’ll be lacking the necessary savvy by living according to our God-given innocence, we can be assured that divine Mind, God, provides and guides us to the wisdom and discernment we need in life. And the writers of Psalms and Proverbs remind us that this God-given wisdom companions our innocence. For example, Psalms 19:7 affirms that “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” The Psalmist further encourages readers with the promise that “the Lord preserveth the simple” (Psalms 116:6 )—or, as the New Living Translation puts it, “The Lord protects those of childlike faith.”
Jesus, in his direct teachings and parables, often pointed his disciples to the need to proactively protect their own ongoing mission as trustworthy followers. Jesus placed value on being wise and not naive. At one time, he counseled his disciples to be not only “innocent as doves” but also “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16, New Revised Standard Version) in their dealings with others.
Being astute, clear-eyed, and discerning is the inevitable result of our God-given innocence, or purity of spiritual understanding. It enables us to see clearly and quickly what is unhelpful in our own or others’ thinking and to go forward rejecting any suggestion that evil has power in our experience. Claiming and cherishing our God-given innocence also helps to sustain and propel our own and others’ ongoing progress as Christian followers, as the disciples worked to do in the early Church.
We can trust, then, as the Psalmist indicated, that wisdom does indeed accompany and strengthen our innocence. Innocence based on divine Truth is powerful in overcoming and thwarting evil and perpetuating good.