Jesus warned His disciples about persecution. We are being warned as well. Throughout Christian history, we have all been persecuted in one form or another. We can learn a lesson once again from Jesus. Just listen what He told is disciples. (This is also instructions for future disciples.)
“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)
Having spoken about the local situation, the Lord now gives these men certain great principles by which they are to go as His witnesses. These principles are good for any time, and they certainly are good for our day.
The opposition of the Pharisees would be like ravaging wolves. The disciples’ only hope would be to look to their Shepherd for protection. We may face similar hostility. Like the disciples, we are not to be sheeplike in our attitude but sensible and prudent. We are not gullible pawns but neither are we to be conniving. We must balance between wisdom and vulnerability to accomplish God’s work.
“But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 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 disciples later experienced some of these things as did many of the followers of Jesus.
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” (Acts 5:40)
Just as with us today, we can’t talk about Jesus in our schools, we can’t display anything remotely religious without fear of offending some faction or another. People are even crying to remove crosses from Veteran’s Cemeteries because they are on government land. In their perverted interpretation of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, they think by honoring our war heroes with a cross on their grave is a gross injustice and a violation of separation of church and state. How is the government dictating or embracing a religion just by allowing crosses, (by the way the Star of David for the Jewish heroes) that honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation?
It got worse for the Apostles:
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.” (Acts 12:1-3)
Living for God often brings on persecution, but with it comes the opportunity to tell the Good News of Salvation. In times of persecution, we can be confident because Jesus has “overcome the world.”
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Jesus sums up all He had told them. With these words, He is telling His disciples, and telling us, to take courage. Despite the inevitable struggles they will face, they are not alone. We are not alone! Jesus does not abandon us to our struggles either. If we remember that the ultimate victory has already been won, we can claim the peace of Christ in the most troublesome times.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
In the United States of America, we are supposed to have the freedom of religion, but instead there are those who prefer “freedom FROM religion.” As a matter of fact, there is an organization called “Freedom From Religion Foundation” that is “protecting” or nation from us “evil” Christians who want to force our beliefs on everyone…. or so they chant.
We can’t be killed or tortured for our belief in Jesus, but we can and do suffer for Him in other ways.
Business are taken to court because the want to follow their Christian belief and not serve someone who goes against that belief. How is that “Freedom of Religion?” Business are boycotted because the dare close on Sunday! This, folks is persecution! Children are suspended from school because the wore a shirt that says “I Love Jesus”. This is persecution! A high school valedictorian was prevented from give her speech because it included a prayer that mentioned “In Jesus Name.” This is persecution!
Matthew Henry said:
“The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their
ruin is sought, and they need the serpent’s wisdom. Be ye harmless as doves.
Not only, do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill-will.”
We must be like the apostles of Jesus and take what we are given and pray for those who would do us harm.
“ But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)
Jesus told his disciples that when arrested for preaching the Gospel, they should not worry about what to say in their defense – The Holy Spirit would speak through them as well as to inspire their writings.
Some people mistakenly think this means we don’t have to prepare to present the Gospel because God will take care of everything. Scripture teaches us that we are to make carefully prepared, thoughtful statements.
“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)
Jesus is not telling us to stop preparing, but to stop worrying.
“And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.” (Matthew 10:21)
When Christ came into this world it divided mankind, it did not bring unity. When one person in a family accepts Christ and another does not, you have a division. Paul said:
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
A Christians, many of us have felt the negative effects or our faith from our own family. They say, “OK fine, believe what you want but, don’t touch me with it.”
Sometimes the hardest people to witness to are your own sons or daughters, your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. The only thing we can do in that case is to pray for them, and pray that someone else will come into their life to show them the light of Jesus Christ.
Again, being wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove.
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (1 Corinthians 1:22)
Enduring to the end is not a way to be saved but the evidence that you are really committed to Jesus. Persistence is not a means to earn salvation; it is the by-product of a truly devoted life.
A Christian should be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. It is dangerous to one and not the other. There are people out there that are wise as serpents – they are clever – but they are not harmless as doves. To use a common expression, they take you. There are others who are quite gullible; they are harmless as doves, but they are not wise as serpents. A serpent is dangerous, and a dove is in danger, so that we need to combine both qualities.
So, Christian go forth and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen and pray for all who don’t.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)