Sometimes Ignorance is Good
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:20
I spend about half of my time working in a chemical dependency treatment center, where methamphetamine addiction is far more prevalent than opioid addiction. I used opioids, but I’ve no personal experience with meth. So, whenever I meet a new client, I ask them to tell me a little bit of their story. Meth, it seems, is highly addictive, even from the first use. Having been sober for several years and still working on my recovery daily, I have no desire to return to drug use. When I hear about meth’s intense euphoria though, there’s a tiny part of my addictive brain that thinks, I wonder what that’s like. I bet it’s great.
It’s an absurd thought and I’m not going to experiment with meth, but there’s still that little part of me that wants to know. It would make me a better addiction medicine physician. It’s true, having struggled with my own opioid addiction has made me a better addiction medicine provider, but it’s ludicrous to think that I must experience every malady that I will treat as a physician. I don’t need to have cancer to be compassionate about it. I don’t need to get diabetes to know how to care for the disease. I can have knowledge of a thing without personally experiencing it.
This seems to be what Paul said in today’s passage. In it, he said we must smart and mature in our thinking, but that doesn’t mean we must experience evil personally. When it comes to sinful behavior, we’re to remain ignorant and innocent. That doesn’t mean we keep our heads in the sand. We need to know of the world without allowing it to shape us and without participating in its self-destructive behavior.
This line between knowledge and experience can be treacherous. As teenagers come to gain knowledge about sex, they don’t want their peers to think they’re inexperienced. Ministers must be able to talk to their congregation about pornography, but in “researching”, it’s easy to become consumed by it. There’s a fine, precarious line between knowing of evil and experiencing it.
As Christians, we’re supposed to be wise and knowledgeable, but we must protect ourselves. Eve would never have tasted the apple if she’d never known of its existence. In knowing she was tempted. In her temptation, she crossed the line and tasted. In tasting, she – and all of creation – fell. We’re not supposed to be ignorant, but in our knowledge, we must not cross that fine line, becoming experienced in evil.