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Sheep Among Wolves

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) -- Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

As a parent, I want to protect my kids. I know they need some lessons of failing, but it pains me to see them fail or hurt. A good tension to have as a parent is letting your children deal with difficulties, but exercising wisdom about how much they can handle. You don’t try to overwhelm your kid. At the same time, you can’t wrap them in bubble-packaging so their fragile egos never get scraped. Most parents lean toward total protection. This is a mistake. 

Jesus didn’t even do that for His disciples. He didn’t do it then and doesn’t do it today. We see this in our passage today. Jesus says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Jesus tells His disciples He is sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. For those wondering, this isn’t good. Sheep are wolf food. When wolves go grocery shopping, sheep is one of the items on the list. Jesus says His people are sheep, and the world He is sending us into is full of wolves. Now what many expect to hear after this is something like, “So I’m going to keep you locked away and hidden so wolves will never get you.” That’s not what He says. He says that He is sending them out. They are taking the gospel to the world and wolves are going to attack. 

This warning leads Jesus to give some advice. He cautions us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We are to be cunning, and strategic. We shouldn’t be foolish in how we approach life in wolf-land. Our actions should be thoughtful, strategic, and executed. Serpents lay low and often strike surprisingly. Yet, Christians are called to be innocent as doves. Our strategies and tactics in the world cannot lead us into sin. Our innocence is an indicator of our holiness and obedience to God. As we go out, the world will hate us and seek our demise. So don’t go out unwisely. Be wise. But be innocent as well. Don’t sin as you seek to live faithfully to the call of Jesus in a wicked world.

Reflection & Journal:
- What does it mean to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves? 
- How does Jesus counter modern notions of what we think He would say in this text?
- What should our lives look like in light of this passage?

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