A passing interest of mine over the years has been to search out the origin and meaning of phrases that we use to convey a particular message. For example, “Close but no cigar” conveys the fact that you’ve fallen short of what you were trying to accomplish. They say it originated in the context of cigars being one of the prizes given for winning a game at your local county fair, back in the day. Certainly not “my day” of course; too young to remember that. “Ignorance is bliss” means to say that if you aren’t aware of something then you won’t suffer any pain or consequence from your lack of knowledge. This originated from an 18th century English poet named Thomas Gray, who wrote: “Where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” Personally, I prefer the 19th century poet Robert Browning who wrote: “Ignorance is not innocence but sin.” When it comes to having “awareness” of the realities of my inner life, I’d rather know the painful truth than live with the corrosive influence of denial.
I have a friend, His name is Holy Spirit, aka “Helper”, who is commissioned to help me walk in truthfulness. Along the way, He recruits a cast of human “helpers” to play vital roles in this process. Leading men and leading ladies in this production are oftentimes our spouses; not to mention those friends whom we label as “best” because they love us too much to have us settle for less than the “best” for our lives. Guess we’ve all been on both sides of that best friend interaction, huh? So, ya gotta love this process! There’s guard rails on either side of the road to prevent us from either judging harshly or never saying a word to avoid conflict; both of which are unhealthy extremes in my opinion. So what does the Word of God have to say about ignorance?
1 Peter 1:14: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” The Amplified Bible says: “do not conform yourselves to the evil desires that governed you in your former ignorance.” Allow me at this point to insert a few synonyms for ignorance: unawareness, blindness, mental darkness, unenlightenment. Speaking for myself, I’m thinking that my current ignorance in certain areas of my life is due to former ignorance not fully redeemed. The passions and desires that ruled over me haven’t yet given up the fight completely. This motivates me to say to the Helper and His human helpers: “Keep after me. Do whatever it takes. I want to move forward in holiness!” A helpful metaphor for me is to compare an earthly dictator who has ruled a country for decades and will never be voted out, namely because he IS a dictator. That is how the dark passions of our former ignorance conduct themselves. They are basically saying, “I was here first and you are going to have to forcibly remove me.”
Who besides me has found life to be somewhat of a battle zone from time to time? I can’t help but insert Galatians 5:17: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” This is the place for some sanctified bravado that says: “No one is going to stop me from doing the things God has called me to do!”
Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” Revelation 18:21 “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence and will be found no more.'” Passivity is no match for ignorance. Passive believers (that phrase has a terrible ring to it) will remain under the predominant governance of their former ignorance. Enlightenment, revelation, transition, and vision will remain mostly foreign to them.
Ephesians 4:18 “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” So it all emanates from the heart. The hard and callous heart is a feeder stream for ignorance. We must forcefully contend for a soft heart. Bliss can be found in consecration but never in ignorance.
Endnote: synonyms for “bliss” – beatitude, blessedness, gladness, joy.
One thought on “Ignorance is Not Bliss”
In reading C.S. Lewis, I always thought “Joy” was the proper word for an older British guy in the ’50s. “Joy” never quite seemd to match what I felt and I’ve looked for my word ever since.
I stumbled across your blog and gave “bliss” a shot, but it connotes a bit too much happiness.
I think I’ll settle for “blissful contentment” to describe the process of striving after Jesus.
At least for today.
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