“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues.
Matthew 10:16-17 (context, vv. 16-24)
We are being sent into a dangerous place. There will be those who hate us, they take us and lead us into courts and they will bring out a whip. The world is not a kind place for believers in Jesus. He warns the disciples of a definite persecution that they face as His disciples. This deep darkness has teeth.
The servant of Jesus will never be “above His master.” Since they called Jesus, “Beelzebul,” they’ll certainly “malign those of His household” (Matthew 10:24-25). We must accept this. At best they will criticize, and at worst they will kill us. We are facing a hostile world who hates our faith.
If a Christian is not having tribulation in the world, there’s something wrong!
And yet Jesus still sends us. We dare not step away from this viciousness. It’s part of the package He gives. We should expect to be treated this way. Jesus warns us honestly of the terrible things we can expect, He does not sugarcoat things. The Lord is well-acquainted with what the world is capable of.
When sheep and wolves meet each other it becomes a slaughter house. And yet there is another side to all of this. We are called to think like a serpent, to have a definite wisdom of all that must be faced, and what we must do to faithfully survive this persecution.
It troubles me somewhat that believers are called to be snakes. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to equate to an innocent faith in Jesus. (Snakes are bad, at least in my thinking). And yet Jesus clearly welds this holy innocence with a wisdom that is very much aware. I suppose that there is a thoughtful balance here, we must find it, and then live it out.
He calls us to vulnerability, most certainly, but mixed into this we need a grasp of being aware; a holy shrewdness (but never a naïvety) that knows how to face the darkness without becoming apostate. We need to use our brains, but be led by our hearts. We are His witnesses, but we must never become His victims.
“It has become a settled principle that nothing which is good and true can be destroyed by persecution, but that the effect ultimately is to establish more firmly, and to spread more widely, that which it was designed to overthrow. It has long since passed into a proverb that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”