Command of Christ # 22

This week's command is 'Be Wise as Serpents.' Jesus said, "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).
Christ has called all believers to go out and make disciples and to teach others.  He warned us, however, that it won't be like trying to give away cotton candy to children, rather we are going to be faced with great opposition.  "But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:17-18).  The wolves that we will face are those who bite and devour us with their criticism, scoffing, and reviling.
Sheep are pretty defenseless against packs of wolves who attack with their sharp teeth and strong jaws. Their main line of defense is their shepherd.  If they heed the instructions of their shepherd, they have a better chance of surviving. This gives us a picture of our own helplessness and vulnerability, but this weakness gives us great power through Christ (see I Cor. 12:9). When we arehearkening to the voice of our Shepherd, who can stand against us? (see I Pet. 3:13-15)
When we come against mockers and scorners, we are told to be wise as serpents. Genesis says that the serpent was subtil above all the other animals. Subtil means to be 'clever, or deal prudently.' Similarly, the word 'wise' in this passage means 'intelligent, prudent.'  Just as Jesus responded to His critics with clever questions, we also should be ready to give an answer. Not an angry rebuke, butpersuasive and well-crafted questions.  Jesus said that He will be with us to guide us in what to say. "For I will give you a mouth of wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" (Luke 21:15).
The next statement is to be 'harmless as doves.'  The word harmless means, 'unmixed, innocent, pure, without mixture of evil.' It gives the idea that there is no evil in what we are saying or doing. That although we are giving a wise response, we are not doing it with guile or hatred.  Our words should be sweet like a dove (Songs 2:4), and should be void of offense.  "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak evil of you as evil doers, they may be shamed thatfalsely accuse your good conversation in Christ" (I Peter 3:16).
Josef Tson was a Romanian pastor that suffered great persecution in the 1970's. He has a powerful testimony of how he wisely answered his interrogators for weeks at a time while remaining harmless in his words. He told them that they could go ahead and kill him, because he would just go to glory and the Gospel would be spread even more in Romania. He is still alive today, preaching the Gospel..I encourage you to read more about his testimony!
Following Jesus' example, we are to give wise replies, rather than rambling off our opinions.  We are to be innocent of evil-speaking, so that like Jesus, there was not one who could honestly accuse Him of evil.
-What is your normal response to those who criticize or mock you?
-Would those who know you say that your words are blameless?
-In what ways are you learning to hear and obey the Shepherd's voice?
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
Notes adapted from IBLP Commands of Christ study guide and pocket guide

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