This is a guest post by Katie Karras. Katie is a communications consultant in Washington, DC and proud member of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church. You can follow her on twitter @KatieKarras. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guideline for more info.
When I was in high school one of my teachers had a poster up in her classroom with the phrase “Ignorance is Not an Excuse in the Court of Law.” At the time I had high hopes of becoming a lawyer. And even though my career took a turn when I learned that law school was three years, the phrase stuck with me.
The official legal term is “Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat,” and in my loose legal translation it essentially means that people cannot claim ignorance as an excuse to do something illegal. I have been thinking about this lately as I have been feeling convicted about the faith and the Bible which I claim so fervently to love.
I can picture Judgment Day and going up to the Throne of God and attempting to claim my ignorance of His Law as the reason for my disobedience. I then imagine laughter infiltrating the depths of Heaven. I grew up in a home where we had about 4 Bibles per capita, access to countless sermons (in HD), books available on order, and Google. I’ve had parents and a plethora of teachers willing to listen to the questions I’ve had and answer them with research and deep consideration. All these thoughts brought me back to “Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat.” I really have no excuse.
Jesus constantly tells us “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7) but sometimes it’s easier not to find out. I’ve somehow convinced myself that “not knowing” will provide me the innocent verdict I need… but that’s simply not true. Ignorance is not an excuse.
In reading more about this concept I learned that while ignorance is not a defense or excuse in the court of law, it can be considered in the sentencing. We are extremely blessed to have a merciful God, who consistently displays His love for us, but at the end of the day I don’t want to have to go before God and have to say “but I didn’t know!”
We live in an age where knowledge is readily available and rarely used. It’s time to take responsibility for our salvation into our own hands. St. Peter warns us to “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
In this respect, I owe it to myself to not only read the Law to ensure I am compliant with it, but also to learn what promises and protections I am entitled to as an abider of that Law. Christ promises a more abundant life (John 10:10), but without knowing or understanding His Law, it’s hard for me to see that potential.
Christ has nothing to hide. He wants me to learn more, encourages me to dig deeper, to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). But it’s up to me to taste… to ask questions… to learn. They call them Bible STUDIES not Bible recitation classes because the point is not just to know, but to learn and to grow.
I can decide to become a citizen of whichever country I choose. But unless I am knowledgeable about the laws of that country, I am not making an educated decision. In the same way, one can not and should not write Christianity off as untrue, without having first read all its laws and promises. And one also can’t truly accept it without that knowledge either.
At the end of the day those who are familiar with it and those who are ignorant of it are all subject to the same law. The ones familiar with the law are just better prepared when it comes to answering to it. Therefore, I want to soak in every detail of the law so that when I am asked about it, I know. I want to proudly stand before the Throne and declare that “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) because I know the faith.
Why? Because in the end, ignorance is not an excuse.
For discussion: any thoughts you'd like to add on the subject of ignorance?