Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Here’s to Wisdom and Innocence
Jesus said some pretty crazy things as recorded in the gospels, but one line in particular has got me thinking a lot lately. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus said, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” These words of Jesus are not the typical stuff of daily devotionals or inspirational calendars but really tell us a lot about the battle that we are in.
I find that the older I get, the easier it is to become cynical whether about politics, church, or just dealing with people in general. Why is this? Because living is hard! As one song put it “Living will be the death of me!” None of us make it through life without disappointments, failures, relationship break-ups and break-downs, and pain of all varieties. These disappointments and trials have a way of wounding us and as a result poisoning our perception of life or at least lingering as dull pain inside. However, those who are Christ-followers, those who take the words of Jesus seriously, should not be surprised that life is hard, that people fail us and disappoint us, that bad things happen to good people, after all Jesus said as much in this verse.
Jesus makes it clear in these words that we should expect hardship, that we should expect evil. How does he make drive this point home? By using a picture of sheep being sent out among wolves. Of all of the comforting things Jesus said this was not one of them. It’s like saying “I’m sending you like steak into the lion cage.” A sheep is no match for a wolf. There is just no way of making that fight work out to the sheep’s advantage… that is unless there is a shepherd. Fortunately for us Jesus makes it clear elsewhere that he is that shepherd.
However, it is the final words of this verse that have really been speaking to me lately, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” While our tendency in the trials of life is to get cynical and bitter and to close our hearts off for fear of being hurt again, Jesus calls us to walk in such a way that expects trials and hard times, that learns from trials and hard times, and yet still maintains innocence and a child-like faith and wonder.
I could certainly use more child-like faith and wonder in my life these days. To be honest, sometimes I annoy myself with all my cynical thoughts and statements. I hate that when I encounter certain people or situations that I am so quick to make snap judgments or to filter things through my own bad experiences. I don’t want to be a grumpy old man or a grumpy young man, for that matter. I am asking God to help me to keep an innocent heart no matter what kinds of things I’ve been through or what kinds of trials I will go through. If we take Jesus at his words this seems like very real possibility.
So here’s to wisdom, the kind of wisdom that only comes through hard times and trials and testing. But here’s also to innocence, wide-eyed, open-hearted innocence that is looking expectantly for God even where one would least expect to find him.