The three participants in the backyard cricket match appeared to not only have very different levels of skill, but they also seemed to be experiencing very different levels of enjoyment as well.
Standing in front of the garden shed, the batsman, Matt, knew what he was doing and was happily swinging the "willow", sending tennis balls flying. As far as he was concerned, there was no better way to spend the last hour of daylight.
On the other hand, the bowler, Kylie, had obviously been coerced into playing at a very weak moment. Knowing my daughter so well, I could tell that she would much rather be inside watching television or reading a book. To be fair though, she did know what she was doing and was quite good-naturedly bowling the ball to her brother. But it really wasn't her idea of fun.
The third member of the team, who was also the youngest, had the unenviable job of fielding with no prospect of ever being the bowler or the batsman. Strangely enough, that didn't bother him in the slightest. In fact, he seemed to think that he had the best job of all.
Unlike Kylie and Matt, this little fellow didn't even know what the game was called, let alone what the rules were. All he knew was that when the ball left the bat, he had to go and get it. For Tiger, our miniature fox terrier, this was only one step short of heaven.
For the most part, Kylie and Matt were happy to have Tiger on their team. For one thing, it meant that neither of them had to suffer the lowly task of fielding. It also meant that Kylie didn't have to go traipsing through the dense garden foliage searching for the ball in difficult and hard to reach places. Tiger, on the other hand, was able to get into lots of little nooks and crannies that the two teenagers would have been really hard pressed to do. There was also the fact that they both loved their little dog and were quite happy to include him in their game.
That is, up to a point. There were some drawbacks too.
Not knowing the rules meant that Tiger didn't always understand the need to actually let Kylie take the ball after he retrieved it. Even if he did drop it at her feet, it was really only in anticipation of her kicking it away for him to chase again. He couldn't quite work out the convoluted method his boy and girl were using to play his favorite "kick and chase" ball game. Still, he was quite willing to go along with it for the time being.
That was the first little problem, but the real game wrecker was yet to come.
Eventually Tiger decided that he knew an even better game, which cut out all that silly tossing and hitting business. This game involved him holding onto the ball permanently and running all around the garden while Kylie and Matt chased after him.
Hey! Where's everyone gone?
GAME CALLED ON ACCOUNT OF DOG!
Now when you're a little pup, a fairly high degree of ignorance is quite understandable. But as Christian men and women, it's quite a different story.
No one expects a new believer to have a full understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. No one would, or should, demand of them the same maturity as someone who has been a Christian for 40 years. We've all been saved by grace, and by grace alone. So to expect our idea of Christian "perfection" from a babe in Christ is not only impractical, it's also setting a standard that's way beyond the tender sister or brother's ability to achieve at that point in time. The damage that can be done through this sort of unrealistic expectation is enormous. When we fail to acknowledge that each one of us is a work in progress, we run the risk of making the way seem so unattainable that the new believer becomes discouraged and gives up.
But having said that, we have to make sure that we don't use our own ignorance as an excuse to keep on sinning. Whereas Tiger will be able to get away with his failure to understand the finer points of cricket for the rest of his life, we can't get away with not knowing what's acceptable to God forever. Pleading ignorance as our reason for ongoing bad behaviour carries less weight with each day that passes.
The reality is that as Christians, we're called to be disciples of Christ and to be a disciple we have to follow our Teacher's direction. If we don't know whether something we're doing is right in God's eyes or not, then we need to find out. All the answers are available in God's Word and it's up to us to search for them.
The Apostle Peter makes this very clear when he wrote:
Our attitude has to be one of always reaching upward to the next level of understanding and maturity in God. The main reason, of course is to live in a way that reflects Christ to the word and to not willingly continue in a lifestyle that's out of God's will. Yet there's also the added reason that with understanding comes wisdom; and that's something that everyone should desire for their lives.
Ignorance might be a passable excuse for a season, but eventually it becomes a stumbling block to progress. Even worse, it could just be a stumbling block to those around us, because ignorance really does have a habit of spoiling the game.
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