by Jessica Low
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” Matt 10:15 (ESV)
Over the past week, my daughter had fearful thoughts of being kidnapped. I explained and assured her that God is the Good Shepherd, who protects the sheep, even if He was not asked. God sending His disciples out as sheep among wolves seems ‘off-character’ of a good shepherd. This is not the ordinary nature of things. It may seem like poor carnal sense to send sheep into the midst of wolves, but goes back to the mission heart of God to reach the world. A God that leaves the ninety-nine to find one lost sheep.
I am reminded that when God calls us as sheep in His flock, He does not want us to stay in the safe confines of the church (green pastures) without taking an active part in His mission.
In this verse, along with the commission to preach the gospel, is an advice to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The blend of snakes and doves in one person is equally strange. Reading from Wikipedia, snakes have an amazing ability to sense danger from their biological built- through their infrared-sensitive receptors and tongues constantly in motion sampling particles from air, ground or water and analyzing the chemicals found. They are quick and adept catching its prey or escape its enemies. On the other hand, doves are peaceable, meek and gentle.
In sending us out on the great mission, He wants us to do a balancing act. Loose the balance and you will be devoured by the world. So, we need to be alert and discerning as snakes to sense danger and to act or escape. Yet, we must be gentle in our approach in winning people over to the gospel.
So, yes go among wolves and be vulnerable when you share Gospel. When they lunge at you, step aside and when they open their mouths don’t step in. Be wise and discerning to avoid bringing down persecution on yourselves.
This brings us to the dilemma that faced many of us. When do you flee from danger and when do you embrace it and witness through it? I cannot help but remember Pastor Raymond Koh who, at the time of this writing, has been missing for 561 days. Many now believe he was a victim of religious vigilantism, as many more reports of missing Malaysians began to surface. I believe for people like Pastor Raymond, he knew how to answer for himself. What about us? When faced with such situation, may we have godly wisdom and discernment to know when to flee or to stand.
Some situations are obvious traps that we need to be aware and flee from like how Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:7). Some Christians have treaded into very dangerous territories – either becoming accustomed to subtle sins or “areas that are conveniently labelled as grey areas” that they eventually loose balance and are devoured by the world.
How do you witness without offending? How do you tell people about Christ without being confrontational? How do you speak gently, yet with conviction? And when faced with persecution, how do we respond?
The text goes on to say that “wolves” will deliver the “sheep” to courts and flog them and drag them before governors and have children rebel against parents and have them put to death. Jesus said “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved”.
1 Peter 3:15 exhorts us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. “