The power of innocence

Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, April 5, 2021.

There’s an arresting statement in a book I consistently turn to—together with the Bible—for inspiration and healing: “Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 568).

It sometimes seems as if innocence and goodness, even if admirable qualities, are easily taken advantage of. Trampled upon.

But the Bible teaches that it actually works the other way around. Christ Jesus’ healings and teachings brought out the pure, innocent identity of each one of us. Habakkuk says that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (1:13). So as the likeness of God, who is Spirit and Truth, we must be spiritual, perfect, good, even innocent of evil—reflecting the divine nature. This means that these qualities actually have the power of God behind them.

It can certainly appear that these characteristics make us vulnerable. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah, fulfilled in Christ Jesus’ life and healing works, as a lamb coming to the slaughter (see Isaiah 53:7). And indeed, Jesus’ good works and innocence seemed to play into the hands of his enemies, who despised him and the religion he preached, perhaps because it pinpointed the hypocrisy of their own lives.

But (and here is the arresting point) that very innocence and goodness were what protected Jesus and caused him to triumph, to rise from the grave in the stunning victory of his resurrection. His example proved that the understanding and living of our innate innocence as God’s image brings to bear His power in our thoughts and lives. As we realize, through prayer, this spiritual fact, we experience more of that divine power, saving, redeeming, restoring, and protecting us.

This was illustrated to me when I was practicing law and our firm represented some women who were seeking damages against another party. The women had fired their previous lawyer, and it seemed as though mistrust, suspicion, and anger characterized our meetings with this group, in spite of our best efforts to break through.

The understanding and living of our innate innocence as God’s image brings to bear His power in our thoughts and lives.

I decided from the beginning that the best recourse was to love these women, to see them as God saw them, in addition to doing the very best work we could on their behalf.

At one point, we scheduled a conference call with the women to discuss a settlement option. When I spoke to one of the women to set up the call, it seemed that distrust and suspicion had already settled into her thought. The prospects for coming to a harmonious agreement about next steps seemed very slim.

I had a few hours to myself before the call, and I went home and prayed. I wasn’t praying to manipulate the outcome in any way, but rather to see God’s goodness and justice prevail, however that might be manifested. I opened Science and Health to the statement about innocence and Truth overcoming guilt and error (whatever is unlike God, good).

As I prayed with this passage, I began to see that spiritual innocence makes it impossible for suspicion to cloud our thinking. This innocence includes wisdom as well as trust. Darkness that would prevent us from thinking clearly stems from the notion that there is a legitimate power apart from God, good, that can influence us. But because God is all-power, such darkness is powerless and cannot influence or be a part of our true, spiritual nature as God’s children.

I felt a great deal of peace and confidence as a result of these prayers. And our call that evening was different than every previous encounter we’d had with these women. They were joyful, and listened attentively to our explanations. They expressed their gratitude for our work and accepted the settlement on the spot. The other lawyers on the call told me afterward they were amazed at what appeared to be a complete turnaround in the women’s demeanor. And a few weeks later I received a letter from one of the women. In it she again expressed her appreciation for the outcome of the case, and the unexpectedly loving tone of the letter illustrated to me how Christlike love lifts our dealings with others into a higher and more spiritual realm that blesses and heals.

Recognizing the innocence and purity of everyone as God’s reflection opens the way for reconciliation, forward progress, and lasting healing in our lives.

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