Mt. 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He instructed them to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons, and to freely give of what they had been given.
But He warned them that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Doesn’t sound like the safest scenario to me.
He said there would be persecutions coming. But He also said that the disciple is not above his teacher, so if they have called Him the master of the house of Beelzebub, how much more would they call those of His household. It makes sense. Persecutions do take place.
Now, what did He then tell them? “Go out there and speak your mind! Let people know how it is and set them straight!”
I’m sorry, but no. That’s not what He said. Now, Jesus wasn’t one to sugar coat things, but He spoke what the Father told Him speak. And in verses 19-20, He said, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
Who is speaking? Us? Uh-uh. The Spirit of our Father.
There is a lot of speaking around us and unfortunately, all too often, it seems that it is not coming from the Father. Jesus told His disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I’m afraid that these have gotten mixed up. I see and hear words that strike out at others, just as a serpent would do. I see words that are meant to cause harm or injury. I hear words that have poison dripping from them.
In contrast, doves truly are harmless. Do you know that the male and the female both produce milk for their young? They’re nurturers. Did you know that doves can adapt to almost any environment on the globe? This reminds me of the way Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.
Doves have also been a symbol of peace, globally, for thousands of years. I recall Jesus saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Mt. 5:9)
We can be the ones that are the peacemakers. We can be the ones that fulfill the great commission as wisely as serpents, but as harmlessly as doves. We weren’t asked to strike out at people. Yes, be wise. I’m not ignoring that part. We are being sent out as sheep among wolves. We need wisdom. But Proverbs is full of ways to use wisdom with regard to our words, and when we are supposed to be sharing the “Good News” about Jesus with others, it sure helps if it actually sounds good and doesn’t feel like a slap in the face.