Are you familiar with the portion of scripture in Matthew where Jesus first sends out the disciples to preach the good news? One thing he tells them is this, from Matthew 10:16:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
As I was reading that again recently, I began to realize that this is exactly how Jesus behaved when he spread the gospel. The next time you read one of the gospels, I encourage you to read it with this scripture in mind. I’ve always been amazed at how Jesus was able to answer the Pharisees perfectly every time. He’d find ways out of their traps, speak to them in parables that they didn’t fully understand, and confound them with his words and actions. He was shrewd, not naïve. And as Christians, we shouldn’t be naïve either. People may try to take advantage of your good nature, or manipulate you into doing or giving more than you are willing. They may play on the fact that you are a Christian trying to follow the mandates of the Bible. But Jesus didn’t allow himself to be manipulated. He was as shrewd as a snake, yet as innocent as a dove. We also need to see through the manipulation of others and pattern our responses in a way that reflect the shrewd and innocent nature of Jesus.
Like the disciples, I think that Jesus is calling us to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. We need to be wise and discerning. We’re not always supposed to be a doormat that someone can use and manipulate – though sometimes we are. The Holy Spirit might have to reveal which one is appropriate in a given situation. That said, we’re also supposed to be as innocent as doves; loving, kind, inviting and non-judgmental. If you’re struggling with that balance, I encourage you to pray that God reveal how this principle should play out in your life. I know that I’ll be praying for that in my life as the need arises.