He came into the world He made and it didn’t know Him and He came to His own people and they didn’t want Him (John 1:10-11). We just didn’t get it! Paul said, “I didn’t believe but I was ignorant.” Peter told the Jewish leaders, “I know you slew Him because you were ignorant.” Paul said the rulers of this age crucified the Lord of Glory because they were ignorant.” Jesus said, “Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.” This kind of ignorance was not new—Isaiah centuries before Jesus arrived has someone(s) saying, “Lord, who has believed our preaching?”
There’s “ignorance” and ignorance and in our lucid and calmer moments we know the difference. Recently I heard of a father who backed his car out of the garage and killed his little daughter—devastated? Beside himself in agony! Then there have been high-ranking government leaders who ordered illegal and evil things to be done and insisted on knowing nothing about the fulfillment of them. That way they could claim ignorance without perjury. A loving mother feeds her baby the usual food from the grocery store only to discover it had been deliberately contaminated—baby seriously ill. The train-driver drives through as green light that should have been red and scores die and more maimed. People invest in questionable stocks and don’t want to know who is suffering or how just so long as we get profit. “Ignorance”! Some of it tragic, some of it cruel, cold and deliberate.
There’s religion and theology that blinds us. It sucks life out of us and we wither. The sickest men on the Jericho were the two who had just been to worship. The man in the ditch knew he had been brutally mugged and in danger of dying; the two brisk walkers with good eyesight were profoundly ignorant—nurtured in and shaped by teaching that created a god nothing like the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. “My Father…you say He is your God yet you have not known Him.” That’s what He said in John 8:54-55. They lived decently, could quote verses, answer difficult questions, rehearse the accepted views and because they knew a lot they could speak of the rank and file and say, “As for this rabble, which cares nothing for the Law—a curse is on them.”(John 7:49, NEB) And Jesus would shake His head and say (7:28), “The One who sent Me is true; you don’t know Him” The God who spoke through Jeremiah said (9:23-24), ”Let not the wise glory in their wisdom…Let them glory in this, that they know and understand Me…I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness in the earth. Because I delight in these!” In Luke 11:42 Jesus trenchantly addresses church teachers with this, “You pay tax on every garden herb and care nothing for justice and the love of God.” They earned and taught God this way and it damaged them—but it did more than that, it damaged all they had influence with. The people came to see God like that! “Woe to you scholars, you take away the key of knowledge…” (Luke 11:52). No wonder Jesus was both a rock of offense to many and a rock behind which people could find refuge.
Misconstruing GOD is destructive in many ways and teachers have increased responsibility here. “Be not many teachers. Teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” See James 3:1-4. Jesus saw in His ministry something not much talked about. To the teachers He said (John 5:44), “How can you believe when the honor you want is the honor from men and not the honor from God?!”
I don’t know much! I don’t know where “balance” is to be found. I don’t even know if “balance” is always desirable. But I know this: There is no doubt (in light of the witness of the Holy Scriptures) that Jesus’ most severe criticism was directed at teachers who were hard. And His most bitter critics were teachers who were hard. I know that!
God entrusted His oracles to teachers and a believing community to learn and teach and embody them (Luke 4:18-19; Romans 3:2). The supreme teacher make His business clear that He had been empowered and commissioned to liberate, to enlighten and proclaim a new day for humans. And His central proclamation was about GOD! And what did a God like the God Jesus knew lead Him to do? He defended the rank and file from hard, heartless teachers who precisely because they were hard and heartless they didn’t know GOD and precisely because they didn’t know GOD they were hard and heartless. But He did more than that—He taught doctrine! And the doctrine He taught He embodied and we find Him go around healing and delivering people who were under a demonic whip.
There are other things to be said that would “balance” the above. I understand that. But Maggie Tulliver was right when she told her cold brother: “It’s a sin to be hard.”
(Holy One, we beseech you to give us teachers like your Beloved Son who with a sweet strong heart sought only to honor you and showed us how that was to be done both in teaching and behavior. This prayer in His lovely name.)