MOST of us feel a certain joy in the innocence of a young child or in the wholesome sounds of children at play. These appeal to our inner sense that realizes pure, God-derived goodness is what's really valuable and enduring. Today, though, children seem to be growing up faster, and sometimes this ``growth'' has little to do with genuine maturity. Television and films often reinforce this concept in their portrayal of children. In magazine advertisements, too, we see young people looking out at us with expressions that show more worldliness than childlike innocence.
At a time when drug addiction, sexual experimentation, crime, and so forth are damaging or destroying the lives of many young people and injuring society as a whole, it's vital that we strive to preserve not only children's innocence but our own. Ultimately, it's essential to the spiritual progress and well-being of us all.
Unfortunately, innocence is often associated with weakness and naivet. But in its truest sense innocence represents the pure spirituality and God-derived strength that defend us from evil. As the Way-shower, Christ Jesus, said, ``Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.''
In order to experience heaven, to experience more and more of the pure good that only God can give us, we have to become humbly childlike in our worship of the one God, Spirit, more faithful in purifying our thoughts and lives. This brings us into harmony with our creator and His goodness. We're able more consistently, then, to feel the power of omnipotent Spirit, the protection of divine law.
Carnal, materialistic thinking insists that a worldly knowledge of ourselves is to be desired and is what makes us mature. This detrimental, mesmeric influence suggests that the eyes of children, and of us all, need to be opened to the pleasures of the senses, to the supposed joys of being worldly-wise, to the so-called blunt realities of life as physical and separate from God. It suggests that innocence and purity are unrealistic, unrelated to our well-being.
But these are the very suggestions that, if accepted, lead to the kind of addiction and promiscuity that cause so much suffering. Such suggestions have no more validity than the serpent's in the book of Genesis. The serpent suggested to Eve that she eat the forbidden fruit of ``the tree of knowledge of good and evil.'' In doing so, the serpent argued ``your eyes shall be opened.'' Of course, suffering was the result of Eve's yielding.
The great need of humanity is for the cultivation of that pure, Godlike sense that worships Spirit, not physicality. The need is for a recognition that man is God's very image, as the Bible teaches, and therefore spiritual and pure. Our growing perception of this truth, and our steady, heartfelt efforts to live in harmony with it, are what confer genuine well-being.
Turning away from the lure of sensuous, worldly thinking may seem naive -- and difficult. But it's not naive, and even modest steps in this direction lead us along the narrow way that Jesus referred to, the way that leads to enduring life and happiness.
It's essential, then, that we defend innocence in our children and in ourselves. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge, and should become men and women only through growth in the understanding of man's higher nature.''
Fruitful work for today, and every day, is to cultivate the innocence that naturally loves man's higher nature. This is what protects us from evil.