“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
(Matthew 10:16 ESV)
We are currently studying a passage in Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus is instructing His twelve disciples before they go out on their own to practice what they have observed Jesus doing. Jesus is prepping these young men for the time when He will leave earth and they will be left to carry on the work He had started.
Notice just how blunt Jesus is. He doesn’t sugar coat their mission. He makes it very clear that this will be difficult and that these men will be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Sheep are certainly not safe in the presence of wolves. Their very lives are in danger in such a situation.
Up until this point the opposition to Jesus has been pretty mild. But it will get more intense over time eventually culminating in Him being put to death by the Jews and Romans.
For this reason those of us who are God’s children [John 1:12] must be wise as serpents. When evangelizing non-believers we must wisely look for the best way to deal with them. We must not vilify them but instead we must glorify God.
This is exactly what Jesus did when He was confronted by the Pharisees [Mark 12:13-17]. Jesus neither defended or condemned the Roman government in response to the Pharisees’ trick question. Instead, His reply focused on God.
Our approach should be similar. We should not get dragged into useless arguments that only cause someone who is already against Jesus to dig in his heels.
At the same time we must be innocent as doves. We must present God’s word in its pure form. We must not dilute it or compromise it in any way. That means simply telling others what the Bible says. No more. No less.
These very instructions from Jesus to His apostles are applicable to us today. Christians represent all that the world hates. The world hates God and therefore they will hate those who belong to God [John 15:18]. For this reason we must have a sense of propriety in how we act towards others. The world is watching our behavior and will jump on any miscue to validate their own opposition to God.
Of course, opposition to Jesus is even more intense today. Christians all over the world are losing their lives because of their faith. This will only get worse. Jesus doesn’t deny this. He has no delusions of reality. That is why He is giving the instructions we are currently studying.
Jesus is our model. Even though He faced opposition He never sinned. He never returned evil for evil. Like Jesus, when we are persecuted we must endure it. And we must bless those who persecute us [1 Corinthians 4:12-13].
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.