Innocence and Virtue

James 4: 17 Amplified Bible” So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.

Innocence is when you don’t know any better, virtue is when you do.

I have a wonderful friend, Doctor Jim Marcum, from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first time I ever met the Marcum’s and stayed in their home was an absolute blessing and a much needed time of rest for Mollie and me. We had the privilege of meeting some of the Jim’s friends and family who fed us, fellowshipped with us, and had worship with us.

We also had some play time and while playing golf one morning, I made a wisecrack joke to some of the men playing with us about someone who didn’t have any fingers. Jim’s closest friend, Danny Miller gently called me aside and suggested that I not make that statement in front of Jim. I was puzzled, however; I didn’t say anything else about it. That evening while at dinner, I notice that Doctor Marcum had some fingers missing on one of his hands. I learned later, they were lost at seven years of age. He fell from a tree breaking his arm; it was quite a fall. Back then to align the bones they put the arm in traction, hoping to pull the bones back into correct alignment. At the tender age of seven, they used too much weight and this acted like a tourniquet and his hand and upper arm received no blood. The next day his hand and arm looked like a dead banana. The fingers had to be amputated.

My heart sank. What if I had made that thoughtless remark to Jim? Here was a wonderful Christian brother, a superb husband, father and prominent Cardiologist–I was ashamed of myself, even though I was innocent of the facts, I felt guilty because I never should have made that brainless remark in the first place. If my heart and mouth had been ruled by virtue instead of innocence, the virtue would have prevailed over the innocence. I apologized to Danny and then I asked the Lord to forgive me too. I asked the Lord to allow my virtue to keep me pure. I needed purity.

In the forests of northern Europe and Asia, there lives a little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it.

Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him; instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or an old hollow tree. They smear the entrance and interior with dirt and grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward his home but doesn’t enter because of the filth.

Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

One thought on “Innocence and Virtue

  1. Under virtue, I think it interesting that the animal knows he must keep his coat clean in order survive, because with his white coat he would blend in with the snow, but if it was soiled then he could be spotted by a predator, so he has to stop before getting dirt on himself. For him it would ‘go without saying.’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were willing to die for Christ in order to remain pure. We will lose the battle on earth, but with Christ saving us we end up winning. I pray today, Lord give me the sense of this rodent!

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