“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16 ESV)
In Matthew 10 Jesus is giving sending orders to his disciples. We read this verse and immediately feel a kindred spirit with those first "Sent Ones". We, like they, are sent into a society that is hostile to the things of God. It resonates with our spirits. It seems pace set our experiences in life. We read this almost in a state of weakness but in doing so we do err.
Jesus is sending his followers into a hostile society but his nowhere claiming them to be lambs to the slaughter. The context demonstrates that he has just equipped them with tremendous authority. They have the power in Jesus' name to drive out the spirits of evil in their journey. They were equipped to bring healing as they were going along as well. Add to this the promise that this authority also could...would raise the dead. They had the power to bequeath peace to a non hostile environment. They had the power to preach the message of Gods love and freedom. Rejection of their words resulted in the eternal damnation of those who chose rebellion over that freedom.
So why, we might wonder, is there a necessity for being wise "so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Jesus seems concerned that the disciples will be tempted to foolish behavior. Certainly, we much dramatic stupidity in the realm of the gifts of the Spirit these days. Gimmicky side show antics are not what the Lord had in mind when he was equipping his church. He determined to empower people like you and I so that we might alleviate the suffering of others as we proclaim the kingdom message of freedom from sin. This requires two importance things. Guarding our hearts and walking in wisdom.
We must remain a people of purity. These days we are being wooed to the ways of this godless world. We hear of the pursuit of personal holiness less and less. We forget to guard our hearts by monitoring with diligence the eye gate and the ear gates to our soul. Yet the heart of the disciple is the place from which flow the springs of the spirit. The hearts of the disciples must be innocent as doves. We must avoid the cynicism of living in a harsh world.
Yet there is a crafty edge to the moving of the Spirit in a hostile society. An awareness that the unbeliever looks for opportunity to scoff at the gospel. And so we walk as lambs among wolves. We needn't be afraid...wisely walking and innocently loving the lost.