Unexploitable innocence

LOOKING out our window, I saw the ship Spirit. It has a new banner across the stern that reads, ``Mercy Ship Helping Hungry Children.'' My heart ached to do something. A donation of food or time would help. But I also wanted to participate in a more permanent solution to the needs of children in our world. I thought of a recent series that ran in this newspaper, ``Children in darkness -- The exploitation of innocence.'' These articles gave accounts of children who are used as human mine sweepers, who are forced into immorality, who are subject to inhuman working conditions. Poverty, greed, indifference, ignorance, were seen as reasons for this exploitation.

Many of us accept the truth of the Bible statement ``God created man in his own image.''1 In the Christian Science textbook Mary Baker Eddy2 writes, ``To emphasize this momentous thought, it is repeated that God made man in His own image, to reflect the divine Spirit.''3 In a sense, innocence is exploited every time we think of ourselves or others as something other than the image of God. God is pure, devoid of anything evil. Therefore His image must be the same. This is the true, spiritual status of each one of us. But we fail to recognize that status when we indulge in negative, destructive thinking, the very kind of thinking that, whether we realize it or not, underlies the tragedy experienced by so many children as well as adults in our world.

The Apostle Paul writes, ``Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.''4 In the verses following we're told that the demonstration of our status as ``children of light'' demands that we be awake, watchful, sober, and armed with faith, love, and hope of salvation. Such qualities of thought are God-derived and therefore have all the power of God behind them. They can change our world.

If we are dealing with a friend abrasively, we must be nurturing some abrasive attitude. When we replace abrasiveness with the understanding and compassion that result from accepting God, Love, as the governor and motivator of man, we promote harmony. The world is made up of the thoughts of individuals. To the degree, then, that our thoughts and the way we actually live express the nature of our creator and we come to understand something of the true selfhood of man under God's government, we can help elevate humanity. We can make a substantial contribution to alleviating child abuse.

The need is to realize in prayer the true nature and condition of all God's offspring, regardless of how hopeless things may sometimes seem. In divine reality, each of God's children is blessed. And we can, as a result of prayer, come to see greater evidence of this.

One time some friends commented on my acute hearing. The remarks were meant as a compliment but implied a comparison of my hearing with that of others who could not hear as well. It was tempting to accept the compliment, even with a little pride. But if I had done so, I would also have accepted that others, my friends included, were in some degree ``children of darkness.'' I would have been accepting the conviction that God's image is not always complete and that we are divided into haves and have-nots. Instead I refused to exploit their innocence and claimed silently that God is all-hearing and that therefore His image could not have poverty of hearing.

This standpoint is in no way an ignoring of evil. Nor is it simply wishful thinking. (Such states of thought don't heal.) Rather, it reflects a recognition of the impact of our day-to-day concepts on the world around us. If indeed the real being of each one is God's spiritual image, endowed with God-given freedom and well-being, we have a responsibility to help bring this to light through allegiance to a higher sense of God and man.

I might send a donation of money or goods to the ship in the harbor, and certainly that should help the hungry children. Any of us can take such practical steps. But when our hearts ache to do more to bring the world's children permanently out of darkness, there is something else we can do. We can begin with ourselves by being awake to maintain our own innocence more diligently. We can be alert to correct the exploitation of innocence by poverty, greed, ignorance, indifference, whenever they come into our experience -- even through the news or everyday conversation. To the degree that we do this we'll be helping to bring a permanent solution to the needs of the children of our world.

1Genesis 1:27. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 516. 4I Thessalonians 5:5. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17

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