On ignorance

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Kay Wilson reflects on the idea found in 1 Peter that “ignorance of truth and intentional foolishness will inevitably bring destruction.” Peter says, “Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1:14b), and Kay likens this ignorance to darkness, arguing that we must walk in the light because “it is impossible to learn to walk in the true knowledge of God’s glorious grace if we choose to be ignorant.”

Who would choose ignorance? And why?

Annie Dillard has an idea. In a chapter of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie describes a moment when she is sitting on a curb, patting a puppy, and watching the sun descend behind a mountain. “Shadows lope along the mountain’s rumpled flanks.... It tricks out the unleafed forest and rumpled rock in gilt, in shape-shifting patches of glow.... a series of dazzling splashes, shrinking, leaking, exploding.... The air cools; the puppy’s skin is hot. I am more alive than all the world.”

Annie compares this particular experience – an opening in time – to Christ’s incarnation. As the light moves across the sky, Annie thinks, “This is it, this is it; praise the lord; praise the land.... you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” Then she begins to think about her experience, and it is gone. “Self-consciousness ... does hinder the experience of the present.”

Ignorance, then (or what Annie calls innocence), can open us to experiences of beauty and of grace. It can also be a defense, one in which we close our eyes to suffering, to injustice, to sin – the ugliness of the world in which we find ourselves.

That is why Kay suggests, “We must be self-controlled and place our hope on the glorious grace that comes through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Adequate preparation requires obedience and a conscious effort.” We must know God. We also must act.

I’m considering this morning what it means for me to act, and I know that one of the tasks to which God has called me doesn’t seem that active. I gather together words for this newsletter. I edit manuscripts and respond to emails. I consider our balance sheet and make decisions each week about which bills we can and can’t afford to pay. I have to keep my eyes open for opportunities to help. I also have to trust that these little efforts – continued day in and day out – might be like the sowing of seeds. Some fall on the path and are devoured by birds. Some fall on rocky ground. Some fall among thorns. I don’t know (might never know) if this work makes a difference. But I trust that at least one small seed might fall on good soil.

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Finally, Peter writes, “With minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1:13). And Kay offers this prayer: “Father, make me hungry for the truth. Lead me into a disciplined life of holy living and stir up your Holy Spirit within me.”

Eric Muhr