Being and Feeling Innocent

WE value children's innocence. And it's clear that we want to nurture and protect it. But protecting the innocence of children relates directly to the innocence of men and women as well. In fact, don't we all long to feel innocent and good? Yet even when we haven't done anything major to feel guilty about, we often carry around a burden of guilt as a part of our daily lives. Just trying to be humanly perfect isn't enough to keep us guilt-free. As long as we're thinking of ourselves as material beings struggling to regain a lost innocence, winning our freedom from guilt will be a losing battle.

Does that mean we can never feel entirely innocent? No! Christ Jesus showed us the innocence of spiritual man, the child of God. When Jesus told Nicodemus, as John's Gospel records, ``Ye must be born again'' in order to ``see the kingdom of God,'' he was not referring to a second material birth. Spiritual rebirth requires each of us to claim and express our genuine spiritual selfhood.

Such spiritual identification is powerful and healing, as my daughter and I found during a recent family vacation. As we left for the vacation, I had several painful sores in my mouth. I was praying for myself as I normally do, and was grateful to have been able to go ahead with the trip. As I continued to pray for myself, I felt a growing certainty of my spiritual innocence. I knew that God had created man spiritual and perfect, and that I could never lose my God-given innocence and freedom from evil. After we arrived at our destination, I felt such a deep peace and joy, such a certainty that God loved me, that I knew all was well. In the morning there was almost no trace of the sores, and they were completely gone later that day. That night my daughter asked me to pray for her because her ear hurt. I told her about the healing I had just had. We talked about her spiritual innocence, and mine and everyone else's too. She could see that illnesses couldn't be part of that spiritual innocence. She went to s leep comfortably and woke in the morning completely free.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, shows the power of spiritual innocence to destroy evil when she writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error. Ever since the foundation of the world, ever since error would establish material belief, evil has tried to slay the Lamb; but Science is able to destroy this lie, called evil.''

It's not always easy to perceive our spiritual innocence, but the rewards are immeasurable, as Paul pointed out to the Romans: ``There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.'' What could be more wonderful than to be free of condemnation?

We have this steady assurance of our own innocence as we see that the child of God -- our true identity -- is always pure and innocent. It may take a deep and consistent identification with our spiritual selfhood, and strong efforts to live in accordance with this purity, but nothing can keep us from renewing our closeness to God. Even if we have done something very wrong, turning to God to learn more of His goodness can correct that wrongdoing and lead us back to the deep, purifying reality of our spir itual innocence. Then we can say with the Psalmist, ``I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works,'' because we will truly feel our innocence.

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