Patient With The Ignorant

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After Peter healed a lame beggar in Solomon’s portico, he preached to the astounded crowds the miracle gathered. His message must have pierced their hearts, for over and over he emphasized their responsibility for Christ’s death. YOU deliver him to Pilate. YOU denied the Holy and Righteous One. YOU requested Pilate release a murderer instead of Christ. YOU killed the Author of life. The crowd must have been shattered at the realization of their guilt before God.

But then, holding out hope to them, he said, “And now brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance” (Acts 3.17).  This didn’t mean they were any less guilty, but pointed to the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. They killed his son, yet God focused on their ignorance.

Peter’s words echo the Christ’s from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Though murdering an innocent man they didn’t realize the depth of their sin in crucifying God’s Son, and based on their ignorance Jesus pleaded for mercy.

Paul too experienced God’s mercy toward his ignorance: “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent…I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 TI 1.13).

I’m so grateful the Lord is so merciful and patient with us in our IGNORANCE!

He was patient with me for years as I lived in rebellion against him. I didn’t consciously say, “I’m going to rebel against God,” or, “I hate God and willfully reject him.” But I did reject him, repeatedly. I did many things I knew were wrong, and many I didn’t know were wrong. But Jesus was merciful to me in my ignorance.

Even as a Christian I still sin in ignorance and fail to do all the good I should. What mercy God shows me.

I must be patient and forbearing with others. Maybe they didn’t mean that comment to be offensive. Maybe they’re just having an off day. Maybe they’re under a lot of pressure and didn’t mean to snap at me. Maybe they misunderstood me.

If God overlooks my sins of ignorance, should I not overlook the sins others commit in ignorance?

  • TammyK

    Before I can answer any of the questions, I have one of my own: is "ignorance" the same as "stupidity?" I hate stupidity, both in others and myself. Now, in response to the questions, how do I KNOW the sins were truly committed in ignorance? What if it WAS intentional? What if the comment was SUPPOSED to be offensive? Maybe I'M under a lot of pressure and don't need one more person snapping at me. How could they have misunderstood ME?! I spoke quite clearly!! Hmmm…. I could make a daily calendar note to myself on my cell phone to remind me several times each day of God's mercy to me and would still find myself asking for His forgiveness because I had not treated somebody likewise. I'm so thankful that I have a Heavenly Father who, not only overlooks but also, forgives my sins of ignorance as well as my sins of arrogance.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/mvaltrogge MarkAltrogge

    Great comments, Tammy!

    Obviously, sometimes people do sin against us intentionally, yet as you said, we should be merciful toward them because God has shown us such incredible mercy when we've been arrogant as well as ignorant. I try to remind myself that no matter what anybody does to me, I did worse to Jesus, for I nailed him to the cross with my sins.

    • TammyK

      You know, it's a real perspective change when you take the attitude that you have here. Unlike "The Godfather," this IS personal. I did THAT to my creator–everything else pales in comparison! Thank you, Jesus!!

  • http://thewarriorsforchrist.blogspot.com/ Caroline

    Something that I really struggle with is when I see unbelievers sin blatantly. I know as it says in Ephesians 2 that we were dead in our trespasses, when we were unbelievers. But there are certain moral standards that even unbelievers know. For Eg: adultery …. I see a lot of flirting goin around everyday in the gym that i go to and it really makes me angry. Its not the people that I hate but what they do. It does upset me often. How should be my heart attitude during these times?

    • TammyK

      We live in a society in which it has become the "in thing" to sin. Breaking the rules, going against the establishment have been themes for quite a long time. The thing we need to remember about unbelievers: they really don't know any better, morals really don't mean much because those are essentially only about the appearance of "goodness." Our attitudes towards them should be what Christ's was to the woman "caught" in adultery: neither do I condemn thee(John 8 1-11). If He doesn't condemn, neither should we. What I struggle with more are those who claim Christ, yet nothing about their lives reflects Christ, you know, those who do ungodly things in the name of God. Does nothing but defame Christ! Those people actually make me angry because they should know better.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/mvaltrogge MarkAltrogge

      Hi Caroline, Tammy makes some really good points. In some ways, though unbelievers do have a conscience and do know some things are wrong, they are somewhat ignorant of the gravity of these sins – that they are against an infinitely holy God, that they are destroying themselves and others, etc., and for this ignorance, we should be merciful toward the sinner, even while hating the sin. Mercy toward them doesn't mean we shouldn't confront them if we get the chance, along with sharing the gospel. I agree with Tammy. Those who claim to be Christians and commit these kinds of sin truly dishonor Christ.

  • http://thewarriorsforchrist.blogspot.com/ Caroline

    Thank you so much for the advice.. I do need to be more compassionate and not have a condemning attitude.. I did confront my friend in love and even warned about the consequences and also shared the gospel.. Will continue prayin for them that God would open their eyes and that they would one day repent of their sins and realize their need for a Saviour.
    Thanks Tammy and Mark for the words of encouragement :)