By Definition
Off the Wall, Apr 3
, 2014

I’m sure we all know someone who was falsely accused of doing something wrong when he or she was innocent. This may have been a friend, spouse or even an alleged criminal who now is behind bars for an extended period of time. Each one of these persons is innocent, yet each has been labeled guilty by an individual, group or even a judge.

Being curious about the derivation of the word, “innocent,” I decided to go online and log onto: and see what the website might provide to educate my limited vocabulary knowledge.

My first inclination was to ascertain its origin. “It comes from Old French, or from Latin innocent - ‘not harming’, from in – ‘not’ + nocere ‘to hurt.’”

We are all familiar with its main usage, but for all intended purposes, I will disclose what the website described:

“Innocent properly means ‘harmless,’ but it has long been extended in general language to mean ‘not guilty.’ The jury or judge in a criminal trial does not, strictly speaking, find a defendant ‘innocent.’ Rather, a defendant may be guilty or not guilty of the charges brought. In common use, however, owing perhaps to the concept of the presumption of innocence, which instructs a jury to consider a defendant free of wrongdoing until proven guilty on the basis of evidence, ‘not guilty’ and ‘innocent’ have come to be thought of as synonymous.”

Some of its many synonyms include honest, upright, law-abiding, honorable and in the clear. One tourist may say to a family member, Ligonier St. in Latrobe is quite innocent of bookstores. In other words, it lacks or is without these types of retail outlets.

“She knows she is innocent of infernal rites or knowledge of Satan, but she also knows that she has seduced and killed with psychological precision,” the website used this example to highlight the word in question.

“An innocent bystander was recently killed when a drunk driver lost control of his vehicle, driving unto the sidewalk.”

“A person involved by chance in a situation, especially a victim of crime or war.” It gave the example, “Here we have on our doorstep a way of bringing to account those people who commit heinous crimes against our innocents.”

“The young children killed by Herod after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:16).” They were also referred to as the “Innocents.”

I decided to check The New American Roget’s College Thesaurus and see what the synonyms of the word, “Innocence” were in that book. Browsing over the many words under the heading of “Innocent Persons”, one struck me that caused me to ponder on one in particular – “lamb.” For one month, I couldn’t help but meditate on Jesus Christ. An innocent man, He was falsely accused of doing wrong and was sentenced to death on the cross.

A question rose in my mind, “As a human being, did Jesus experience the same emotions when falsely accused as others walking among Him?”

To set the answer straight, I turned to Father Michael Sikon of the Diocese of Greensburg. He said, “The question ‘What did Jesus know?’ presents a fascinating reflection. Many Christians operate with the assumption that Jesus knew everything. However, for the scholastic theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, such an understanding was viewed as absurd. Although God possesses perfect knowledge, it is impossible for humans to know as does God.

Because Jesus shared our human nature ‘in all things but sin,’ He certainly experienced fear, doubt, frustration, etc. Asked to do the impossible, it’s safe to propose that He responded as would any other human.

But, He also shared a unique relationship of intimacy with the Father in heaven. Certainly He presents himself as One who speaks on behalf of the Father. He presents Himself as One who knows the Father’s will, and who is engaged in ‘bringing about the kingdom.’ His is a relationship of absolute trust, seeking only what the Father desires.

But (most reputable theologians) would assert that the decision to embrace the course of action that brings Him to the cross, and to whatever lies beyond, is for Jesus of Nazareth a leap of faith. And by His action, He makes possible the means for us to do as He has done, to act even though we doubt to believe even in the midst of our unbelief.”

Seeking what God desires, must be our goal as Christians, as well.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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