I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 NIV 1984
The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation: He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves! What is He thinking? Doesn’t He care? Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?
Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it. Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves. He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things: He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them. (see Matthew 28:18-20)
Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness. Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender. But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.
Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17). This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.
When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight. There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight. We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord. The battle is the Lord’s! (2 Chronicles 20:15) Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12) We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.
But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight. In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!” Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial. But, we need not go looking for martyrdom! If it comes, so be it. But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!
What to do when facing a threat? Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day? Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep. You will know which way to go.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV 1984