As we enjoyed a late breakfast this morning, a friend of mine shared his belief in the innocence of children. Until today, I hadn’t heard anyone point to the Genesis account as evidence, though I’ve heard many arguments surrounding the idea of an age of accountability. He feels that there must be a time of innocence in this new creation, just as there was with Adam and Eve in the garden before the knowledge of good and evil, before sin. Now, before we continue, let me make something clear. I have no intention of debating his ideas. I don’t know if he’s right or wrong, and I don’t feel the answer is as clear as we’d like to pretend. What I would like to share is the path of ideas it led me down, in hopes that you too might gain something from it.
When I first heard his statement, something jumped in me. I wanted to argue. After all, age doesn’t matter. We’re all little heathens. Haven’t we all experienced that moment when a toddler, pausing for effect, looks us straight in the eyes and then does exactly what we’ve told them not to do time and time again? There’s a reason that particular anecdote shows up repeatedly in stories and sermons.
But something stopped me.
Instead of jumping, I listened. Instead of preening my pet argument, I began thinking. Instead of rehashing what I know, I took the other side and argued against my own assertions. In that moment, I discovered something new. My mind was opened up to new evidence, and strangely enough it came from my own experience. In that moment, I perceived the evidence, old and new, in a new way, and that is a very, good thing.
So I would like to challenge you. The next time you’re face to face with an opposing view, take a moment to listen, to think, to defend the other side and to reevaluate. You might just do what I did, and learn something new.
** For those interested in more detail about my thoughts regarding kids and an age of accountability, read on.
I don’t believe we can establish a single age. In my own mind, that is a fool’s errand. I also believe that we all are born with a sin nature. However, I’m not sure we are born with the discernment of good and evil, and, as my friend pointed out, the knowledge of good and evil came with that first sin. It was the gift of the forbidden fruit. In essence, that would give a reason for that child like innocence. Most of our ideas about what is right and wrong are the result of our upbringing. Watching my niece and nephew grow up I am becoming more and more aware of this. After all, how many times have I treated them like they’re doing something wrong when, in truth, I’m simply tired and irritated and they’re crossing my boundaries. I know what they’re doing isn’t wrong, but as far as I am concerned it is in that moment.
And as for today’s challenging thought, I was forced to remember that every act of children is one of exploration. They are looking for truth and are largely unaware of boundaries. They don’t think the same way I do, and I don’t remember what it was like to think like them. I don’t share that freedom any longer. I envy them that. So I wonder how many times that seeming deliberate act of defiance and rebellion, is instead a query, an exploration, a search for truth in a world that is foreign to them. It’s a courageous example for us, and maybe one we should follow more often.
In the end, it helps me remember that no man knows the heart of other men, only God has that insight, and, in the end, only God will judge.