Travel back in time with me if you will. . . .
It’s late in the evening. Most of the multitudes that followed us throughout the day have gone. There’s a bit of desert night chill and Jesus warms himself by the fire.
“Come join me my friends; I have much to tell you.”
As we gather at the fire to hear our Lord and Master speak, I’m struck by the serious look about His face. Or perhaps it’s simply exhaustion from a long day sharing wisdom with folks eager to hear a word of truth. A word that will lighten the load of an egregious life lived without much to hope for.
“I am sending you out into the world“, he says. “As sheep among wolves!”
It is seriousness I detect in the dark eyes that scan each of our faces.
“I tell you that you must be as cunning and clever as a serpent; yet innocent as a dove!”
Whatever could He mean? Cunning and clever, using the image of a serpent for an analogy? We all know that it was the serpent who deceived our first father and wife in the Garden!
And innocent as a dove? That which we have come to know as symbol for God’s Spirit – the one we’ve learned was present at His baptism. The one that appeared as the voice from Heaven announcing “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!“
They are contradictions – a paradox in terms. How can we possibly be both – at the same time, and do what He asks.
Suddenly a chill passes over me and I draw nearer the fire. “Don’t be naive!”
His eyes fasten on mine as he cautions us to recognize the world into which He sends us in order to do as He instructs.
The words roll across my mind as we scatter to our beds for the night. What is He saying? Why must we be clever, cunning, sneaky like a serpent; but at the same time – innocent without any sense of conniving or ulterior motives?
Is it any wonder that at times, I question His words, His thoughts. Is it any wonder that this time I’m totally stumped as how to be in a world of wolves waiting to tear us limb from limb. Seeking to do as He says – be as a serpent while a dove at the same time. . .
In researching the various translations of Matthew Chapter 10; I was struck by the paradoxical nature of the analogy and metaphors He uses to describe the conduct necessary for survival in a world full of “wolves”. The whole of Chapter 10 is taken up with Jesus instructing the 12 on how to conduct themselves and the business of the Kingdom when in a world that may or may not receive them well – if at all. Here’s what occurs to me:
- We must know the enemy. In fact, we may even have to appear akin to the ‘enemy’ when adding it to our bag of worldly “tricks”. In Christendom, the metaphor for the evil one (Satan, the Devil, Diablo, etc) is the serpent. It is evil in the form of a snake which convinced Eve that God didn’t say she shouldn’t eat the fruit of that tree. After all, what a succulent apple it has produced. The serpent – analogous with lies, deceit, conniving, impure motives, etc.
If we remain unaware, we may fall into the trap of cunning set by others seeking to deceive and dilute the message we bring!
- We must know The Motive behind our motives and actions! In other words, Jesus was telling the 12 – and now us, that while being clever, cunning and perhaps deceptive; we must know the Who and why behind such actions. We must be the recipients of His Spirit Who will, once He comes, be the revelation of all truth. Throughout Scripture, one constant metaphor for the Holy Spirit is the dove. Our motives and actions – regardless of how they appear, must be driven purely by the Holy Spirit, even when we have little understanding as to why.
We must maintain such a close connection to the Lord through His Spirit that we know what we know what we know! In other words, faith that it is the Spirit of God working in and through our actions – regardless of what the wolves may think!
- We must test every “spirit” we encounter. Especially those who profess to be one with us. We must remember always, that not everything that glitters is gold. Same is true of people. Not everyone who says he or she believes does so in concert with the Word and their deeds. A major portion of our need for cunning and clever is the practice of ‘discernment‘.
We must let the Spirit of God provide us with clarity about that which is hidden – even from him or her who bears it!
Eugene Peterson, author of The Message translation, follows Matthew 10:16 with the following: “Don’t be naive!” The one thing believers must not be is naive.
I think that short sentence is one of the most important in all Scripture. It underpins Jesus’ words to the disciples instructing how we must be as men and women conducting Kingdom business.
Along with naivete’ is gullible. When we are naive, we are most likely to be gullible as well – and prey for both wolves and other sheep who would deceive, rob and steal. . .
Finally, it has been my experience that the most dangerous of persons are naive Christians – accepting without question those who purport to wear the Christian label whether in deed or fact. In years past, it has been the naive gullible believer who has contributed to the harm of others – and caused insult to the message. Most of all insulting the ultimate source of the message – the Lord Himself!
My dear women of God; you have been sent into a world filled with sheep and wolves. Be aware of what lies hidden; trusting the Holy Spirit to gift you with discernment. Act according to His motives that you may be cunningly and creatively deceptive when the occasion calls for same. Yet remain close to the fire of His Presence that you might not be the perpetrator of evil intent.
And above all else – be not deceived by naivete’ and be not gullible in any matter to which He has called you!
Linda S. Fitzgerald, Visionary Partner & CEO
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[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://affiliatedwomeninternational.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/05/linda-google-NB-profile-pic.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]I have a ‘fiery’ passion to see women become all they are designed to be – personally, professionally and most of all – spiritually. I write, teach, mentor and coach with that passion in mind. As an author and prolific blogger, I reach out to women in all walks of life, especially women of faith to empower and equip them for greatness. [/author_info] [/author]