We live in a post — Christian era.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, NKJV)
I do not mean to judge anyone’s spiritual condition. This text shares a distinction that requires a deeper look. The purpose of the passage is not to label anyone, but to challenge Christians to fulfill a God-ordained role.
As believers in Christ, we find our life and purpose when we encounter Christ. Christ is the treasure in the field, and when we find that treasure, we sell all we have and buy that field. This metaphor of the field is another way to say that Christ-followers give all they have to their Creator — God.
As believers, our lives were planned before the foundation of the world. It is not unusual for us to know that Christ created us, leads us, and sends us. The Bible says the Lord orders our steps. God orders out steps. Sometimes we know God is leading us. Other times, we stumble into His will and realize where we are right now is a divine assignment.
God creates. God leads, and God sends.
When God sends us, it’s not always to safe places. We tend to believe that God sends us into safe zones. Not true. That is not close to a biblical pattern.
God sent his children into severe battles and frightening situations.
Daniel and the lion’s den
Daniel faced down lions in a den. Yes, God sent him into the lion’s den. So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” (Daniel 6:16, NKJV)
Most of us would take the wolves over the lions. Right? I prefer neither. God led Daniel to and through a den of lions.
Gideon and his 32,000 men were outnumbered by more than four to one. Then God led Gideon to reduces his army to 300. You do the math. God sent Gideon into battle with virtually no natural way to win the fight. God sends His people into situations that will glorify His name and show his great power.
I could share a dozen more stories where God’s people were sent or assigned to significant trouble. God leads us into difficult situations and yet provides us with grace to endure the struggle.
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:32–40, NKJV)
Wow! All through faith. This same faith is available for the sheep sent among wolves.
Sheep among wolves
Let’s concentrate on the metaphor of wolves. The metaphor is not calling people wolves. It is a contrast. Jesus was saying as the wolf is the number one enemy of the wolf, you will have enemies. Of course, the sheep are defenseless. The sheep relies upon the shepherd. As believers, we depend upon our shepherd. Jesus is our Chief Shepherd. He leads us, and He sends us. Where He sends us, He protects us. And if we die, we die for Him — in His service.
Yes, sheep have enemies. Christians have enemies. In fact, in this vitriol environment, we live in, everyone has enemies. Christians are unique in how to handle attacks from their enemies.
God uses unconventional methods.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV)
Unconventional for sure. No coach suggested this. My dad taught me to hit my enemies square in the nose. My heavenly Father says, love my enemies and pray for those who use me.
Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20, NKJV)
God says, give you enemies a sandwich and a diet coke. This kind of ludicrous suggestion is above human understanding. It is a serpent and dove principle suggested by Jesus.
Serpents and Doves
Patrice Tsague gives excellent advice on this text:
Both animals represent characteristics that we need as Christians if we are going to overcome the daily predatory aggression of the enemy. One alone will not do. If we act just like the serpent, we will be used by the evil one to bring harm to others, and if we act just like the dove, the evil one will have us for lunch, and it will not be a holy sacrifice. If we operate in both to the extreme, we will manifest a blended personality trait that will fight off the works of the devil while forwarding Christ’s agenda.
Jesus emphasized a great balance between the dove and the serpent-wisdom and harmless. We could say being both shrewd and wise. The picture of a dove is intriguing. Believers are to be harmless when dealing with hostile people. The dove is a symbol of peace. We live in a time where peace is rare. The world is angry. The wolves are howling. The politicians are fighting.
Doves are harmless
Has a dove ever made you mad? What do you think or feel when you see a dove? Never rage. Rarely negative. Doves are harmless. I have never heard that a dove killed another bird or attacked a dog.
The typical response to a dove is peace. When I see a dove, I watch it until it moves out of my sight. Doves intrigue me. Christians should be similar. Yes, we should resonate with peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
Doves are harmless. Should Christians be harmless? Good question. I am prone to say that we could interpret this as “not cause harm.” I am not sure we are there. As I dive-in to social media, I see tons of harm from Christians. It is not harmless to vent hatred toward the LGBTQ community or to judge Muslims.
I watch Christians bash one politician for behavior and accept President Trump for worse. This is not wise. This is a preference.
Preference cannot override wisdom.
When preference overrides wisdom, we lose our wisdom. The scripture borrowed one trait of the serpent. A serpent has many characteristics cunning, deceptive, but they are also patient and wise. As believers, we need wisdom like never before. The toxicity of this political and cultural environment demands wisdom. Human wisdom is limited. The Bible calls wisdom “the principle thing.”
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. ( Proverbs 4:7. NKJV)
Wisdom is the principal. It means wisdom must be first.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12, NKJV)
Reaching others for Christ is a high priority of God and the Christian believer. The serpent and dove principle assimilates to winning the unbeliever and the un-churched. Jesus was the epitome of the serpent and the dove. Jesus was no pansy but displayed great wisdom. Jesus was strong and yet caused no harm.
It will serve the church and the believer to resemble the wisdom and no-harm life that Jesus displayed.
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Leave a comment. What ways can we reach others for Christ in this pandemic season?