Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless [innocent] as doves. (Matthew 10:16 NKJV – parenthetical definition added)
As believers, we are all sent out as ambassadors to spread the Good News of salvation. But we’re sent as sheep! Yes, Jesus compares us to sheep sent into a world that contains wolves. Sheep have no survival skills, and are not smart or cunning when it comes to safety. They rely completely upon their shepherd to lead and guide them, to feed and protect them. Sheep respond to their shepherd’s voice, but they tend to get restless when food is scarce.
Jesus compared us to sheep because, like sheep, we need our loving Shepherd’s wisdom, protection, the food of His Word, and the living water of the Holy Spirit. We also recognize our Savior’s voice and respond to it.
We are sent among wolves1 who want to make prey out of any vulnerable sheep. So, as believers, we must trust God to protect us and guard us, even as He protected Daniel in the lions’ den.
We must be wise like a serpent, who has keen eyesight and is quick to learn. Yet we must be as innocent as a dove, who is meek and gentle. (When the Holy Spirit appeared, it would be in the form of a dove.2) This balancing act is only possible by God’s grace.
How can we share our own, personal story of salvation without offending the unsaved or coming across as confrontational? We should allow the Lord to control the situation, as we listen for His wise voice and obey it. We need to be vulnerable, non-combative, and yet courageous in our witness. The Lord will give us an understanding of the person and the situation as we allow ourselves to be guided by Him.
When we follow the instructions of the Word, we can harmoniously use the traits of both serpents and doves and be a witness of calm discretion!
1 Mat 7:15
2 Mat 3:16; Mk 1:10