“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
What did Jesus mean when He told His 12 disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves as he sent them forth on the Great Commission?
Sounds like quite the balancing act doesn’t it?
A serpent is wise, with keen eyesight and is quick to learn. A dove is innocent, meek and gentle.
When the Holy Spirit appeared, it would do so in the form of a dove.
Jesus saw a necessity in this balancing act because, as He put it, he was sending them out “like sheep among wolves.”
Lose this balance, and you will be devoured by the world.
That metaphor rings just as true today.
How do you witness without offending? How do you tell the unsaved about the Glory of Christ without being confrontational?
That balancing act is attainable if God is in charge, much the same way Isaiah 11:6 is attainable because God can do anything.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”
As Christians, we are all “sent out,” in one form or another, to spread the Gospel, be it at work, at play, talking to neighbors and strangers, or actively engaged in evangelism.
We are all God’s ambassadors. Yes, we are Not of This World, but we have to live in it, thus the need to be balanced in our witness.
As such, we should speak diplomatically – yet with conviction — when talking to others about Jesus.
What About Phil Robertson?
As I think about Matthew 10:16, I recall the recent furor caused when Phil Robertson, the small-town Louisiana patriarch of the nationally televised A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty,” gave an interview lashing out at the homosexual community.
Robertson may have been wise in the understanding of the Bible, but in my opinion, not harmless as a dove in the way he approached the subject.
Does that mean Christians can’t criticize or give an opinion or warn others of an issue they feel is wrong? Not at all.
But if one compares “angrily speaking out” against the backdrop of Jesus’ love, one would be careful how they championed God’s balm of salvation.
After all, Christianity is in the cross-hairs of Satan and he is the prince of this world.
This is not a condemnation of what the “Duck Dynasty” star said, only how it looked in the context of being “wise as serpents, gentle as doves.”
Was Robertson wise? He did reference God’s word in the Bible in Leviticus 18:22: (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”)
Was he harmless as a dove?
Well… in the public relations world of speaking your mind, No — especially when you are a national figure and there are groups and media watching you, ready to pounce on you as a Christian and your godly beliefs and brand you as “bigoted” and “intolerant.”
This is exactly what happened to the “Duck Dynasty” star. An uproar ensued over his comments.
While many rallied to his side, the damage was done.
A&E momentarily suspended Phil, a major advertiser temporarily pulled its ads in knee-jerk reaction, and once more “Christians” as a whole were seen as intolerant and bigoted.
But that’s what happens when you are “harmless like a sledgehammer.”
What About Westboro Baptist?
The same holds true with the misguided folks from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, whose vitriolic anti-homosexual rants have included picketing military funerals and painting Christianity with the brush of extreme ideological intolerance.
Recently, while a Westboro contingent was in Hollywood to picket the Golden Globe awards, they took time to picket in front of El Segundo High School.
The group holds up hate signs that read: “Thank God for AIDS,” “God Hates Fag Enablers,” “Death Penalty for Fags” and “Thank God for IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
Is this a good Christian witness? No way!
Is this being harmless as doves? No.
Do you think that people who see Westboro as a representation of “godly Christian love” would ever want to hear about Jesus? No.
Christians are not to be lukewarm in their zeal for Christ, but neither are they to be loud, brash and in-your-face repugnant.
The great majority of Christians are not in the mainstream media spotlight, but they are in God’s spotlight.
How to Handle Confrontations That Are Against Your Christian Beliefs
If a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door, do you rip up their Watchtower magazine and tell them they are going to Hell, or do you gently point out that God’s word says you can’t earn your salvation and show them these two verses?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If a Mormon comes to your door, do you launch into a rant about how the religion took root in the 1820s when a young Joseph Smith of New York said an angel named Moroni visited him and led him to some buried plates that were translated into the Book of Mormon?
Or are you gentle as a dove in pointing out that Mormonism contradicts the Bible in major ways?
Mormons have questionable doctrines when it comes to “Christianity,” believing in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as the “words” of God.
That in itself fails to heed the warning of Deuteronomy 4:2:
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”
Mormons believe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods, in direct contradiction that there is only one God (the trinity). 1 John 5:7 tells us:
“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”
What about Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus?
Do we scoff and snicker at them for their belief systems?
Or are we wise as serpents and harmless as doves if and when we witness to them? Ask yourself, how would Jesus talk to them?
Jesus’ command is marvelous in its simplicity: Be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.
And when you are confronted by doubters and false doctrines about Jesus, keep Romans 10:13 close to heart:
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved.”
It is truly one of the wisest statements you will ever read … and one of the gentlest arguments you can ever make.