Forgive Us of Our Ignorance
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:32 – 43)
This verse has been my friend lately. I hate ignorance. I find it intolerable. There’s a good case for hating ignorance. I can credit plenty of heinous events to ignorance. We could argue that killing the innocent Son of God is one such incident.
I have found myself so frustrated lately with my brothers and sisters in the church and their reactions, or lack thereof, to the social upheaval following Ferguson and subsequent events. Has anyone read the Gospels? How can we claim to be experts on the Gospels and not get involved in fighting social injustice? How can we find the phrase #blacklives matter “exclusive,” or overboard? How do we ignore the African-American community, including the African-American church, when it cries out that something is wrong? How are we so ignorant? Yet, it seems, we are.
How do you fight that kind of battle? That’s the question I haven’t been able to answer. How can you dialogue with your peers if they have no clue about oppressive social structures, imperial systems of control, and what the Bible has to say about all that. And the Bible has plenty to say about all that! Even typing this out I know how condescending it sounds. It sounds like I am saying that if you don’t see things the way I do, or hold the same socio-political views I have, then you are not as smart as I am. Let me just say this now: This has nothing to do with smarts. Ignorance is not necessarily stupidity.
That is why I have had to live with this verse during this season. I need to be reminded that there is plenty I am ignorant about: more than I am comfortable admitting. When I spot ignorance, and call it out, it’s not meant to be condescending. We are all ignorant. As Isaiah lamented, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isa 53:6). Like little children who interpret new found knowledge as infinite knowledge, I am often deceived into believing I know more than I do. I don’t.
And the Gospel says that even though ignorance can lead to the worst thing humankind has ever done (killing God), God knows that we cannot do for the world what that cross was meant to do for the world if we aren’t willing to look out on a mass of ignorant humans, and forgive them. Moreover, I hope that my peers will look at me and forgive my ignorance as well.
So I pray: “Forgive me my ignorance, as I forgive those who are ignorant to me. Amen.”