Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
It would be amazing if we were suddenly catapulted to a place of complete freedom and peace as soon as we finished saying the prayer of salvation, to escape the fallen nature of this world and be instantly transitioned into our eternal reward. We are, however, promised the exact opposite. Jesus does not hold back any truth from us and this verse, unfortunately, proves that we will have to dwell here for a little longer. The questions are, how do we dwell in such a place? what are we supposed to do to live in the midst of wolves? and what exactly is the purpose, if any?
Jesus does not sugarcoat things in this verse. He tells us that we will be sent out in the midst of wolves and He sends us knowing we will face persecution. We can either be scared of a verse like this or we can go forth in the assurance that the Lord has a good plan and will protect His sheep throughout the entire process. The most important thing is to understand our surroundings. While in the midst of wolves it is extremely important to protect ourselves, to be well aware of the circumstance surrounding us, and to understand the real threat to our walk and salvation. I think we can all tell a wolf apart from a sheep when they look like a wolf, smell like a wolf and walk like a wolf, but, we are promised that some wolves will wear sheep clothing, those are the wolves we must be very aware of. But, how do we know how to tell a wolf in sheepish disguise? the Word! If we are in continual study, we will become more and more aware of what real sheep should look like. There have been many times when the Lord has given me discernment while facing a certain circumstance, the more we know God’s Word, the more discernment we will have, and the more discernment we have, the better we can evaluate a situation properly. We must be continually seeking the genuine to be able to avoid the fake.
The Lord tells us in this verse that we are to be both wise as serpents and harmless as doves. At first, these instructions seem to be contradictory to one another. But as we look to the reason, we get a better understanding of what the Lord means. The Lord knows wolves are going to try to seek and destroy His flock, we will face tremendous persecution, so He tells us we have to be wise to the threat. He is telling us to examine everything about a certain person or situation and move forward with a good plan and a discerning heart. In a situation like this though, how on earth can we be harmless as doves?
When we see a wolf, our first instinct may be to fight that wolf, to eliminate the threat, or maybe to completely avoid it altogether, but is that what we are to do? If that was the instruction the Lord had for us, the verse would read more like… be as sharp as a two-edged sword. This is not what the verse says though. Harmless as sheep, sometimes this is a very difficult demand. We could use all the earthly power we can muster, but that is not what we are being called to either. There is something we must remember while dealing with wolves… that wolf persecuting us, that wolf selling drugs on the corner, that wolf teaching false doctrine, that wolf swindling money from the old and weak, that wolf leading sheep away from the flock… those wolves, while they do not know it, are God’s sheep. Sheep that He still hopes will return to the flock someday. So, while we must deal very carefully with the sheep in wolves’ clothing, it is the hope that our gentleness will lead them back to the open arms of our Savior, that the flock should be restored.
We are all God’s children, none of us have sins any better or worse than the next. It is God’s desire that all of His sheep return, we must deal gently with those sheep that have strayed so far away from the flock that they can no longer see or hear the Shepard.
1 Timothy 2:4 (NKJV)
4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.