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?