I remember a conversation I once had with a 9-year-old. When she asked me about my work as a public speaker, I explained how much I loved talking with people about God’s goodness and about how very much He loves them. She responded, “That must be easy, because it’s true.” Her answer intrigued me because I knew she did not have any religious affiliation or spiritual education. When I asked her if she believed in God and she answered yes, I asked her why. “Because I just do,” she answered.
My 9-year-old friend was free of doubt, speculation, or any puzzled human reasoning. There was just a simple and ready acceptance of God’s existence, of His goodness and love. For me, her answer was filled with such sweet, childlike innocence.
Children have long been a symbol of innocence, which is defined in part as “simplicity, blamelessness, lack of worldly experience or sophistication.” Yet today, the innocence of many children is vulnerable – as they watch and worship celebrities, mimic or engage in adult behavior, or are victims of abuse and exploitation.
Recently, there was an outcry in the United States, when a major retailer introduced a line of cosmetics for girls 8-12 years old, igniting debate about children’s make-up “contributing to the over-sexualization of youngsters” (Daily Mail, Jan. 26). And when the British TV show “Skins” was imported to the US, a public and parental protest erupted against its explicit depictions of sex and drug use among teens as young as 15. An article in TV Guide stated, “We hope MTV gets the message that it’s not OK to put teen actors in these scenarios and pass it off as entertainment” (Feb. 7).
Yet even as we see and hear reports that suggest children’s innocence is being undermined, we can realize that there is an innate innocence in each one that cannot be tarnished or diminished. It is their innate purity as God’s children.
The Bible assures us that “we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16, 17). As a child of God, each one has a spiritual identity that is inseparable from Him, forever safe in His sheltering care.
And as “joint-heirs with Christ,” each reflects “the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3), which is the very source of their protection from physical or emotional harm.
Innocence is not a weak or vulnerable human characteristic. It is a spiritual quality coexistent with God, which cannot be compromised but constitutes a refuge from the material dangers of the world. Our prayers to better understand this are needed, and we can expect that they will lead to more effective means of protecting children – of valuing, respecting, and guarding their genuine spiritual identity.
An illustration of the protecting power of innocence is seen in the Scriptural account of the prophet Daniel. When Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den for disregarding the king’s decree, which had been instigated by political enemies, he was never attacked. When the king found him safe the following morning, Daniel explained, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt” (see Dan. 6:1-23). Daniel’s deep and abiding faith in God’s presence, and his lack of desire for revenge against the king, constituted his Christliness, the blameless innocence that protected him from harm.
Aware of humanity’s need to understand the sheltering and protecting power of innocence, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote to her adult followers: “Beloved children, the world has need of you, – and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 110).
The world needs your innocence. It needs your prayers to affirm the blameless spiritual identity of each child, eternally complete in God’s care. It needs your prayers that embrace all mankind in the realization of God’s protecting presence. It needs your faithful affection and uncontaminated life that seeks and finds God’s goodness as the harmony and reality of existence.
The world needs your childlike innocence, as simple and profound as that of a sweet 9-year-old who believes in God’s outpouring of love and goodness – just because it’s true.
First published in the Christian Science Sentinel.