I’m a researcher…before I buy something, I read all the reviews, get opinions, look at the comparable products and also do price comparisons on multiple websites. It is exhausting, even to me at times, but it’s how I work through things. And yet, there were quite a few areas of my life, especially my young adult life, that I knew very little about. Many times on purpose-areas like politics, history, investing or random sports trivia. I was ignorant – I simply didn’t know about them. According to the definition of ignorance (the polite kind) – I lacked knowledge about these topics.
Other areas of ignorance mainly boiled down to a lack of experience. I didn’t realize how much parenting life revolves around food…for at least one parent. My best friend would probably tell you that I didn’t have much awareness about how to accommodate family schedules when I didn’t have children yet. I didn’t realize you don‘t catch a cold from being outside in the cold but rather from being inside during the cold. Parenting has pretty much made me realize that there are a whole bunch of things in life that you are ignorant of until you live it.
The reality is that we all have these areas of ignorance in our lives. Some on purpose and some that we fall into by lack of experience. Much of our awareness or ignorance is tied to our upbringing and later, our own circles that we create and stay in. In my home, we didn’t talk about politics. It wasn’t good or bad, it simply wasn’t discussed. Anyone who knows my husband is probably chuckling at this point because I don’t know many people more interested in (the philosophical arguments surrounding) politics than my husband. In fact, back in 2011 he demanded that I watch the 2012 presidential debates with him…torture at the time! I have willingly become more interested in the direction of our country, albeit with a different approach than my husband, but I doubt that interest would have sparked on its own without his passionate compulsion- a significant catalyst.
When I was in the military, I was completely ignorant about healthcare. I paid $0 in healthcare bills so long as it was covered by the military. And I was completely unprepared for the world of health insurance when I left the military. I wish they offered a class in figuring that stuff out…I don’t know many who understand the many facets of coverage and how much it will truly cost you. Don’t even start on taxes…
Prior to marrying an entrepreneur, I was completely ignorant about small businesses and how they operate. My eyes were opened to a level of risk that I never envisioned for myself and made my “security gland” that Dave Ramsey talks about seize over and over for the first few years.
I’m ignorant of many difficulties faced by groups of people who are different than me, whether different cultures, skin color, circumstances, or abilities. I certainly desire to learn more about these areas of which I’m ignorant. I believe we all have something to learn by listening to others in their circumstances. I was inspired by the idea from “The Read-Aloud Family” that when we listen to stories about the circumstances of others, our own character is tested through use of our imagined experience in the story ourselves. God tells us very clearly that our difficulties develop perseverance and hope (Rom 5:3-5). Though it may not be the same as experiencing it ourselves, our ability to listen and empathize with others can hone our awareness of how we would handle the struggles ourselves and make us better stewards for good in this world in the same way that our character can be molded by living 1000 lives through books and stories.
But the most significant area of ignorance in my life until about age 26 was my understanding of the Bible. Despite my parents’ dedication to finding a local congregation each place we moved, my actual understanding of most of the scriptures was just not developed at all. While I might have kicked and screamed as my husband introduced me to politics, I am forever grateful for my husband’s role in helping to develop my understanding of the Bible when we began to study together.
God doesn’t want us to ignorant! Paul wrote to the church in Rome saying this:
“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves.” Romans 11:25a NLT
This mystery has now been revealed: that Christ came to offer salvation to all people (Jew & Gentile)! It is no longer a mystery, it is clearly answered for us in the New Testament. For additional study about the mystery being revealed, go to Colossians 1, Romans 16, Ephesians 3 and more.
Now that the mystery has been revealed, we need to pay careful attention to the message from Jesus so that we do not fall away! It is a serious problem if we ignore such a great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-4)! Listen to the warnings about ignorance from the Scriptures to Christians…
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Ephesians 4:18
“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.” Acts 17:30
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6
How can we heed those warnings if we are not in the Word of God? We will not get away with being ignorant about God and the Scriptures. We do not want to be destroyed! So then how do we gain understanding so that we are no longer ignorant?
I’d like to share one of my favorite stories from the Bible with you, since it could just as easily have been a story about me.
After Jesus had ascended into Heaven, the Apostles and many others who heard the “good news” of Jesus were sharing the Gospel all over the world. There was a court official (more specifically a treasurer of sorts) for the Queen of Ethiopia traveling from Jerusalem (Acts 8:26-40). He was in his chariot reading from Isaiah in the Scriptures. I’m going to pause right here and ask you a rhetorical question: have you read through Isaiah at all? It’s not so easy to understand at first (or 40th) glance. This is what he was reading…
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” – Isaiah 53:7-8
Super easy scripture right? Umm….no! Even if now we can sort of appreciate that this passage is about Jesus, this had just happened and the connections were just beginning to be made.
God sends Philip (a teacher and among the first preacher/evangelists) to the man during his travels through the desert, who ultimately runs up to the Eunuch in his chariot to ask him if he understands what he is reading. I love the Ethiopian’s answer: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” He later follows up with another question: “Is the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” (my paraphrase of Acts 8:34). And beginning with this Scripture, Philip taught him the good news of Jesus (the person talked about in Isaiah 53)!
We all need a guide as we begin to understand the Bible. Maybe you were raised in the Church and you had many guides from a young age and then continued the journey on your own from early on. Or maybe you were like me and felt at 26 (or 36, or 86) that you didn’t have the slightest clue what you just read, though you desired to know more and dedicated time to reading the Bible. Maybe you feel like that now. When you desire to know and understand more about God’s word, God will send you a Philip.
Cameron was my Philip. He patiently continued through hours of slow reading with countless questions as I really studied the gospels. Then he helped me connect the ideas in Acts, where the church (Christ’s followers) actually began. And at some point, I started to see the connections all on my own. I still love to have biblical discussions with him, but his role has shifted.
In any area of ignorance in our lives, we must at some point consider the possible impact of staying ignorant. I see almost no possibility of negative impact from my ignorance on sports trivia, especially since I have already found my spouse!
But the determination of our eternity rests on our willingness to push past our ignorance of God and the Bible and the rescue that he provides for our souls. We have to become informed and develop our understanding sufficiently to determine if we believe the Good News of the Gospel (told from the very beginning of the Bible) and are willing to respond to God’s invitation if we do. Then we need to dig even deeper to develop our understanding and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 to Christians!)
I need to caution you here. Sometimes our gut reaction to ignorance is to feign understanding or to pursue messages that are easier to understand. I mean, frankly, that is what I am trying to do with this blog! But we have to be very careful who we learn from and what it is we are learning. While some of the topics in the Bible may be hard to understand, God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and faith comes through hearing the message of Christ (Rom 10:17).
The Apostle John warns us in his letter, saying “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In order to test them, we have to compare them against what we already know God has said…the Bible. We can’t do that without developing our understanding.
And you may have heard the familiar verse, “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:14).
And in Acts we are told of a group of Jewish Christians who dedicated themselves to testing the message preached about Jesus. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11
Who do you think wants you to stay in ignorance? Satan – the father of lies and the one who twisted the truth from the very beginning will throw every fiery arrow he knows to keep you from understanding God’s word. He wants to convince you to remain content in your ignorance. Even after you have committed to being a Christian, he will try to establish your faith on anything but the Bible itself. Do you remember what Jesus answered each time he was tempted in the wilderness by Satan? It was the Scriptures. And we are told to fight Satan the same way, with the Sword of the Spirit (the Bible) in Ephesians 6.
The only way to come to know God is through His inspired word, the Bible. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t settle. Don’t get distracted by a specific preacher or even your “Philip teacher”. Don’t fall for the devils schemes of complacency.
Commit yourself to the hard work of beginning to understand the Scriptures for yourself. Understand what it is you believe when you commit yourself to God, as you will stand before Him on your own to testify of these things (Rom 14:12 & 2 Cor 5:10). Understanding the Scriptures is not a responsibility that only falls on teachers or preachers, but each one of us is told to speak as the oracles (words) of God (1 Peter 4:11). We have to learn God’s word to live by it.
You will inevitably run into some areas that surprise you that you never knew were in the Bible, even years after you first responded to the Gospel call.
And when you move away from ignorance and towards salvation (or maturity if you’ve already been washed in the waters of baptism), it’s not just your own paths that you can change.
We set the environment that produces areas of ignorance for our children, especially in their younger years…before friends and the rest of the world have opportunity to become their source of all information. That is a seriously heavy responsibility to me when I consider it. This is not to say that areas of ignorance are our parents’ fault! Certainly I had my own say in what I chose to become informed about growing up. But we craft the initial environment that our children will ultimately launch off from and redefine on their own going forward.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6
If we continue to grow in our own understanding, we can help guide them before they become self-conscious of their ignorance. Before others argue with them that Creation didn’t occur in 7 days. Before they are faced with the struggles that will inevitably come. We can guide them to have hope in an everlasting Kingdom before they struggle! What an amazing gift to give to our children. It is the greatest gift that we can give anyone.
I’m so grateful that I acknowledged my ignorance of the Bible and was willing to say, “I don’t understand what I have read.” If you are seeking God and yet feel ignorant, please know that God is already preparing a Philip to guide you. We need more Philips in the world! Ask God for a person to help you better understand the Bible. If you’d like to study with me, then please know I would love to. I’d run to meet you in a chariot if I could! I’m that excited to guide you to a better understanding of the Good News of Jesus. Just take that first step away from ignorance towards God. You can then become equipped to be a Philip to someone else!