Innocence—man's true heritage
He cried bitterly. He had been caught stealing. At the police station, the boy spoke of his childhood: When his mother went to the outdoor market, she balanced a basket on her head and carried him in a pouch on her back. Passing stands piled high with food, she would bend down to look at some items. That's when the little boy picked up whatever he fancied and threw it into the basket. Unaware, his mother paid only for the food she had selected. The child's wrong behavior was not corrected and continued as he grew up. He excused it because he was poor.
When I heard of this incident, I knew how important it was for the boy to acknowledge his wrongdoing and not to repeat it. But I thought, "Didn't his tears speak of his rebellion against dishonesty? Didn't his spiritual innocence call out to be recognized?"
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The Bible tells of an occasion when tears especially signaled a deep yearning for change. Luke reports that Christ Jesus was a guest in the house of a Pharisee, called Simon. "And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (7:37, 38). Commenting on this event in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy raises the question "Did Jesus spurn the woman? ... No! He regarded her compassionately." Further on Mrs. Eddy asks, "Had she repented and reformed, and did his insight detect this unspoken moral uprising?" (p. 363). The Master's purity enabled him to see what others did not, and he could say to her, "Thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48).
An insight into our spiritual nature initiates moral transformation.
The Science of Christ brings to light man's true nature as innocent—as the spiritual idea of the one pure Mind, God. This real identity, loved and practiced, gives one spiritual strength to overcome fear, sin—any irreverence for good. An insight into our spiritual nature initiates moral transformation by denying evil a base of operation—and so begins to regenerate thought and life. We recognize infinite Mind as the exclusive cause of man and therefore as the source of his purity. We realize that because Mind's innocence is by reflection man's innocence, man's innocence is intact. Humanity's struggle to be free from evil, and yearning for something better, testify to the inherent innocence of man.
Through prayer and the study of the Bible and Science and Health, thought is illumined and one learns to know God as infinitely good. He is not the creator of evil. Evil is unknown to God—there is no devilishness in divine good or its creation—therefore is no devilishness in divine good or its evil has no power or substantiality. Its so-called domain is an illusion—the realm of speculation, aggressive suggestion, and manipulation—the belief in more than one power. Jesus never consented to evil's false claim to existence. Through the power of Truth, he healed sin and its supposed effects.
The ever-present activity of Christ, Truth, convinces us of our own innocence—our freedom from fear, sickness, and sin. As we are receptive to the influence of spiritual purity, corporeality loses its hypnotic attraction and human thought yields to the transforming power of the Christ. Science and Health explains, "Reform comes by understanding that there is no abiding pleasure in evil, and also by gaining an affection for good according to Science, which reveals the immortal fact that neither pleasure nor pain, appetite nor passion, can exist in or of matter, while divine Mind can and does destroy the false beliefs of pleasure, pain, or fear and all the sinful appetites of the human mind" (p. 327).
Man as God's image and likeness couldn't any more be guilty of sin and sickness than could God Himself. God's man is the unblemished, conscious expression of Love. And unconditional Love doesn't withhold from man a capacity for good; pure goodness is man's heritage. As God's offspring, man is the evidence of flawless good.
Mankind's desire to cleanse itself of disbelief in innocence can be answered through obedience to God's law as found in the Ten Commandments. This obedience abates strife and unites and strengthens families, neighbors, and nations. Individuals discover that the most natural place for them to be—where they find peace and safety—is in Mind's innocence.
As a child, I learned to listen to the ever-present prompting of innocence. I grew up in a war-ravaged country where the need for food was desperate. There were, however, some people who had parcels of land and who could at least grow something. Our neighbor, for instance, had a garden. I would go to help her with chores, and the dear woman would reward me with a slice of bread and jam. But on one occasion she forgot. On the way home, hungry and disappointed, I decided to go back to remind her. Walking into the open house, I looked for her in the kitchen, and through the window I could see her working in her garden. As I was about to leave, I spotted on a shelf a row of jars filled with jam. After a moment of hesitation, I jumped up on a chair, took down a jar, opened it and with one hand filled my mouth with the sweet, sticky jam.
The pain of hunger I had felt before was nothing in comparison with the misery and shame I felt then. Returning home, crying all the way, I forgave the woman for her oversight, and I knew that never again would I find an excuse to be dishonest. Even so, it wasn't easy to go back the next day and tell the neighbor that it was I who had put my fingers into her jar. She didn't make a big fuss, wasn't angry or harsh. In fact, from then on whenever I did some work for her, she would share her meals with me, and sometimes she would bring my family a basket of vegetables, eggs, and some bread. Seeing the incident more clearly now, I realize I learned a bit more of the sustaining power of Truth. Through the study of Christian Science, I have seen that innocence is present before we may even be aware of it. As we claim our purity, we find that divine Love gives spiritual riches that take care of all human needs.
As we feel the reassuring, healing presence of divine Love, the erroneous, material sense of self gives way to a spiritual understanding of man's God-derived nature. To demonstrate our spiritual innocence requires moral courage, and it means honoring God and acknowledging Him as fully in control of our life. Realizing that Love's irresistible power and purity are governing our thought, we will practice our spiritual innocence and uphold the innocence of our fellowman as the spotless image and likeness of God.
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. ... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalms 51:7, 10