Ignorance may be bliss but it can also be costly. In 1849, David Rice Atchison was the President of the United States for one day, but he didn’t know it. James Polk’s term of office ended at noon on Sunday, March 4, but Zachary Taylor did not take the oath of office until Monday. Although it never happened before or since, the Senate Pro Tempore becomes the President when there is no sitting President while there is nor sitting Vice President. This was the situation for those 24 hours, so as Senate Pro Tempore, Atchison became President. He was not sworn in. He did not stay in the White House. He is not included on any Presidential lists. He was not even told until years later. He had the privilege and power of the Presidency, but didn’t know it. What a lost opportunity!
When I lived in Buffalo, an acquaintance told me about one of the first cars he ever bought when he was too immature to understand ethics. The car was advertised as a “Chevy” with the added description “left in the barn since the owner died in Vietnam”. The owner’s mother took him out to the barn and pulled back a dusty tarp revealing a mint-condition Corvette. He immediately purchased it, but for less than $1000 dollars. What this lady didn’t know prevented her from having a hefty payoff.
Sometimes the result of ignorance is more than a loss of opportunity or money. There are times it can be absolutely dangerous. Such was the case on the Island of Lubang for many years after WWII. Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese soldier who didn’t know Japan had surrendered. He continued fighting for 29 more years. During that time span, he wounded 100 civilians and killed another 30. When he was finally convinced, in 1974, that the war was over, he came out of the jungle, surrendered his sword, rifle and backpack. He then fell to the ground and wept. If only he had known.
When we trust in Christ as Savior, we are given a treasure without measure – eternal life. We are indwelt by a power beyond human comprehension – the Holy Spirit. We are entrusted with an awesome responsibility – being a gospel witness. We receive a remedy for sin and guilt – forgiveness and pardon. We are granted the capacity to deal with despair and disappointment – faith and joy. We are given the power to defeat fear – through love, power and a sound mind. Many of us often live as if we have no knowledge of these blessings. We seem to “forget” and choose instead to face life’s challenges in the faulty power of the flesh.
There is even a greater ignorance than all these examples. The story is found in Luke 16. A rich man lived a blissful life in comfort and plenty. He didn’t know that he was missing something. The leper who begged outside his gate knew what the rich man did not, and had what he did not. The leper knew God. When he died angels carried him into Heaven, but the rich man died and went to Hell. In his horrible torment he became aware of his own ignorance and those of his family on earth. The rich man became a beggar. He pleaded with Abraham to send a heavenly messenger to tell his brothers the truth about heaven and hell. They didn’t know.
For believers and unbelievers as well, regardless of blissfulness, the worse thing someone can be is ignorant when the ramifications are so profound. This is one reason that Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” As believers, our privilege is to know. Our responsibility is to tell. No matter how happy people may appear, if they are ignorant of the gospel, or the responsibilities of believing it, their bliss will be short-lived.
Let’s walk joyfully in truth,