I honestly can’t believe it was fifteen years ago. Britney Spears was the darling of the pop-music world and her latest single had just been released. Contained in that single Oops!…I did it again were the now infamous lines, “I’m not that innocent”. Now granted, I don’t want to give Britney Spears too much credit, but it seemed as if a new age had been ushered in. Maybe it was due to the coinciding of a new millennium, but it seemed as if all of a sudden everything in the world was turned against innocence. Now little girls were being asked to grow up into their teen icons faster and the fashion industry started targeting tweens. Little boys were being exposed to violence and pornography through video games and the internet at an astounding rate. And the result of a this over-exposure? We have become a calloused and cynical society that sees the world as overly hostile and beyond hope. And childhood…well, let’s just say it ain’t what it used to be.*
I sometimes even find myself being a little over cynical. Who wouldn’t? Look at the news around us. A biker gang fight in Waco, TX. Civil unrest in major US Cities. International chaos from earthquakes to civil wars. But then I stumbled across a story this week that made me hope again. I’m not sure if you saw it or not, but it was about a 5-yr-old little boy in Alabama who decided he needed to feed a homeless man at a local Waffle House. You can see the video here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/19/living/5-year-old-feeds-homeless-man-waffle-house-feat/ . And I thought for a second, maybe all of the innocence hasn’t gone out of the world. That’s the amazing things about kids in their innocence. They don’t see someone who is homeless, of a different race or gender, someone who we might deem unworthy because of their circumstances or our preconceived biases. They see a person. And honestly, they see better than us someone who at the end of the day is really no different than them.
There is a verse in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church that many people interpret differently than I do. It’s this weird verse in chapter 13 that is just sandwiched in there, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11. I’ve always thought of this verse as a Lament for the loss of childhood and the innocence that comes with it. I know that childhood comes with some pretty crazy things sometimes. Children can be temperamental, selfish, whiny, etc. But children can also be the most generous, the most loving, the most accepting…really the most innocent when it comes to the world and the people living in it. Maybe we as the “adult” church need to take a lesson from our children and reclaim the way we look at those around us. After all, Jesus did say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3. May we find our innocence again and love like the little children.
* On a related note, I think it is so important for us to find ways to protect and foster the innocence that is such an important part of childhood and healthy development!