When our local garden club was very new, we used to bring unfamiliar plants and pass them around to get them identified. Many times, those of us who came from other climates were unfamiliar with the local weeds, or as others call them, “native plants.”
Now that we can get a picture on our phones and post them online, some of my garden groups like to ask about unfamiliar plants that may have been passed down from a grandparent, or given by a friend.
I have been overjoyed to be able to put a name to that two-toned fragrant iris. Its name is Alcazar, and a more prolific and hardy iris I have yet to find. I now look forward to identifying the tall pink iris that some local gardeners have been calling “Christine’s Pink Iris.” Is it an heirloom called “Queen of May,” or is it “Easter Bonnet?” It will still smell as sweet, but I would like to know.
What we don’t know can’t hurt us, right? Well, yes; it can. If I don’t know what to look for in a plant disease, it could wipe out my roses. If I don’t know if my soil is acid or alkaline, my hydrangea could die.
When we talk in terms of people instead of plants, the consequences of ignorance are far worse.
While Paul was visiting Athens, he had the opportunity to talk to the Athenians about the God that they claimed they didn’t know.
“For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His children.” Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man'” (Acts 17:23-29, NASB).
There are a few approaches we can take about the unknown. We can be mildly amused by it just for the pleasure of academic discussion, as were the Athenians who invited Paul to speak on Mars Hill. That won’t change our lives, but it’s comfortable.
We can be puzzled and worried about the unknown. We could stay miserable because we cannot reach our potential without essential knowledge; or worse, we could be eternally lost.
The only appropriate response is to seek out and find the knowledge we need, and then act upon it.
Here’s Paul’s conclusion:
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).