Innocent. When I hear that word, I think of babies. They are truly untouched by the world’s filth. They haven’t lived long enough to encounter or understand the hardship and pain that can come with living on this planet.
There is something beautiful about the innocence of a child. I love the way they see the good in people and circumstances. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in world of innocence?
But even for a child, as they grow, they lose that view of the world. Anyone who manages to hang on to it is considered a “Pollyanna,” someone who is out of touch with reality.
We can’t go back to babyhood. Even if we could, in Psalm 51, David states that he was guilty from the womb. Aren’t we taught that we are born into a sinful world, therefore sinful by association? How does all this work?
Scripture tells us we are made innocent by the blood of Christ. What does that look like? Can we return to the innocence of childhood? How can someone undo bad experiences, whether it was from my own decisions or because of another? Just being born into this world makes us guilty before God.
So, I dig deeper.
It seems that human experience has nothing to do with being innocent in God’s eyes. The word “innocent” is a legal term. This understanding of the word brings clarity.
An article on USLegal.com states, “Innocent typically refers to a finding that a criminal defendant is not guilty of the charges, but may also refer to a finding that a civil defendant isn’t liable for the accusations of the plaintiff, such as being found not negligent in a personal injury case. It is synonymous with acquit, which means to find a defendant in a criminal case not guilty.”
This makes more sense. The redeeming power of Jesus brings us back to a state of “not guilty.” It doesn’t erase the experiences that we’ve had. It acquits us of all charges.
Looking at innocence in this way helps me understand why a sweet baby can be guilty and a hardened criminal, once surrendered to the Lord, can be innocent.
It has nothing to do with the doings of a person, except that they put their trust in Jesus. As with so many ways of the Kingdom, this is all about Jesus and not so much about us.
So we can find our innocence again. We can have childlike faith. We can be a new creation in Christ. God made way for us to be reconciled to Him through Jesus. It is finished. We are innocent, blameless, and our filthy shame has been washed away.
We don’t have to FEEL innocent to be innocent. It has been declared over us.
So what are we to do when we have feelings of guilt and shame? Those feelings point to a more profound hurt that needs to be brought to Jesus. Accepting that we have right standing before God is only the first step.
Here are 3 ways to deal with the feeling of guilt:
- In prayer, explore the source of the guilt. Is there a remnant of sin that you are holding on to? If the sin was done by another, is there a need to set yourself free by forgiving them? This is not an easy task, and it may be helpful to seek a spiritual director or counselor.
- Know that in Kingdom terms, you are reconciled to God. So thank God for the forgiveness that is already yours. By having a grateful heart toward God, you make that forgiveness your own. Receive the gift that it is, say thank you to the Giver.
- Give yourself your best advice. Our own self-talk can keep us reliving our guilt. Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself? Have compassion and grace for your own heart. Set it free.
Put your faith in the facts and the feelings will follow.