Guilt and Innocence
I was just nine years old as I stood on an over-pass above the highway throwing empty beer cans into the highway. Some of the cans bounced off the cars and then was crushed by other vehicles that followed. Other cans I threw fell right in front of the cars and was immediately crushed. Some just fell between the wheels and was only crushed several cars later as the wind blew the cans around. After throwing each can I stood there intently watching its movements until it was finally crushed.
It was a fun and exhilarating experience for me as I threw each can over the fence until a man walked by who started yelling at me. He said something about damaging the cars and what a nuisance kids are these days. I remember as I heard that man’s voice, I had two objections to his reaction. First, I did not see any damage to the vehicles as the beer cans bounced off the vehicles. Those vehicles just simply drove on. Second, he used the word “kids” in plural. There was no one else with me as I accomplished this task. After some more yelling the man just walked away after giving me a warning. Then I threw one more can and ran in the other direction as I saw that man turning around to me.
Maybe I was just a product of my environment growing up in the Bronx. As that man spoke to me, I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. As much as I could see, I was not doing any damage at all. Yet that man seemed to be so irritated.
There was a man in the Bible who was quite righteous in his ways. This was attested by God and he surely thought well of himself. But in his most gruesome situation, he had second thoughts and said: “Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse” (Job 9:20 ESV). In his own mind he seemed to be blameless, but in light of the holiness of God, he realized that he had no chance.
Just like my experience at the age of nine, we simply don’t recognize our own sinfulness. Through the years, we become “acceptable” to most people, and those are the people we spend most of our time with. Thus we loose that critical element in our relationships and we are not able to recognize our own faults.
Among many things, there are two factors that help us to have that critical element. Involvement in small groups, and meditation of the Bible. In a small group based on relationships, the chances are greater for the rough edges in our personalities to begin to rub against each other. This will result in some form conflict that eventually needs to be resolved within the small group experience. In a loving and accepting group, one has the freedom to open up and share weaknesses. Along with this, a daily reading and meditation of the Bible has great value. While we read, meditate, and pray, the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to work within us. He will highlight and convict us regarding those things that needs correction.
We may be innocent in our own eyes, but before God, we stand guilty.
So, do you have any stories of “innocence” to share?