Saturday, September 01, 2007

Innocence

I was talking to Amanda the other day and the subject of innocence was brought up. Specifically, I wondered how to balance the childlike innocence that I am called to as a Christian while not being blind to this world's troubles and the issues that I have to face everyday. Though this sounds slightly ironic, I think that innocence is something that Christians should take seriously. Jesus said it best in Matthew 19:14.

14Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (New International Version)

If the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like children, what does being childlike mean? When I ask that question of myself, the answer I usually get is "innocent" or "pure." I also think of being open-minded, trusting, forgiving, and kind. Before you start, yes I am around kids a lot and I know they aren't always those things, but let's give 'em the benefit of the doubt and blame society for a moment, 'kay?

We are told by society that we need to be tough. We are told that people are out there solely to pull one over on us and that the only people we can trust our ourselves. We are told that the world is a scary, cruel, and dangerous place where we must always be on our guard. When we believe this (and most of us do), we lose our innocence. We lose a wonderful childlike gift, which is to see the world as benevolent. We become tough, selfish, proud people who see ourselves at the center of the world, and thus we create the scary, cruel, and dangerous world that we were warned about.

I am told by some people that I am tough; in fact I like to think of myself that way. But I don't think my toughness is a defense mechanism. It's more of a decision to be completely open and impervious to the opinions of others. I think openness is part of innocence, too. Childlike frankness may make people think you're strange, but a freer way of living I've never known. It's so much easier to love Christ when you aren't concerned about what others think of you.

At the same time, I can't knock being an adult. Even in my openness, I have to be concerned about the feelings of others (feelings and opinions are two different animals.) I have to realize that they may not be as comfortable with certain subjects as I am. I have to be humble, and think of them as better than myself (oh how hard that command is, and to think it's Biblical!) Those are the kind of things that children don't understand, but I still think they require a lot of innocence. I've never met someone who I could think of as both "innocent" and "arrogant." This is hard for me, because I have many moments where I realize I'm one heck of an arrogant son of a gun.

So, there is the situation. To be innocent is to be pure of heart, kind, forgiving, and most importantly, open. At the same time, being open and blunt can give you the reputation of being arrogant. How do you balance the two?

Like I said, innocence can also be hindered by the fact that there is evil in the world and we do have to watch out for ourselves. But I'll leave that for the comments. Any ideas, anyone?

4 comments:

tilts_at_windmills said...

I'm not sure innocence is the right word for the kind of goodness an adult should have. Innocence is basically a lack of experience--a touching and beautiful lack in a child, but still a lack. Children trust because they've never been hurt, adults trust in spite of the fact that we have been.

The fruit in the garden of Eden gave knowledge of good as well as evil, and although I don't believe the story I like the symbolism. You have to know one to know the other. Children are "good" only in the sense that they're ignorant of evil; they're trusting, forgiving, and kind because those virtues have never been put to the test. Adults are people who have experienced the evil in the world, and still choose to be good.

Jay said...

Well, I could argue that we were never meant to taste the fruit in Eden and thus were never meant to know evil, but...

I think your analysis is a good one. I suppose what impresses me about the few adults that I view as "innocent" is that they have trusting, forgiving, and kind attitudes, yet I know that they are not ignorant of the world's evils.

I guess what I want to be is someone who has experienced the pain and hardship of the world, but still carries on with the wide-eyed optimism of a child.

Brandon said...

One thing I like about children is thier innocence. Their eyes tend to be brighter and livelier than most adults I've ever seen. They're trusting and warm and open. I wonder if the world wouldn't be a better place if more adults could learn to let the bad roll right past them and keep from putting on that hardened shell, which proves their innocence has been lost.

I like this post, Jay. I've always liked the verse you mentioned about the little children coming to Jesus. Reminds me that having faith and trust without restraints is the best way to follow Jesus.

I think I'd also like "to be someone who has experienced the pain and hardship of the world, but still carries on with the wide-eyed optimism of a child". That sounds really wonderful, actually.

God bless,
Brandon

Pastor Dazed said...

hey dude.

just came across your blog.

i still have a lot of catching up to do but it's good to know there are others who share the same convictions.

be blessed.