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                The world has been turned upside down, or at least it looks like it has. We have lost the ability to be civil and replaced it with the ability to be extremely loud and angry. We no longer can just disagree, we must now destroy those who disagree with us. Guilty people get to walk around free because they have the means to defend themselves while innocent men and women suffer because of their lack of funds. An allegation can ruin some people’s lives while facts can be ignored if you are powerful enough. Up has become down, right has become left, and honest, good people are left confused on how to walk in this strange world.

            There are several problems with seeing the world this way and the first is to assume that this a new phenomenon. That is not true. The world has been upside down and absolutes redefined since Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the wrong tree. We are not in a new situation. The only thing new about our situation is that technology allows us to see more of what is going on and allows us to instantly add our correct opinion on every subject.

            How are we to live in a world where everything is turned away from the way it is supposed to be? How do we offer support to those who have been hurt while not blindly believing every story we are told? How can we be both compassionate and clear headed? Jesus offers us the answer in Matthew 10:16. He says, “Look, I'm sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Interesting the animals Jesus used to make his point.

            In case you are not familiar with Matthew 10, it is where Jesus sends out His disciples to preach to Israel. Before they go He gave them instructions laced with warnings. He let them know how bad it was going to be. I do not think Jesus was just referring to 1st century Israel. I believe that He was warning every Christian from that time forward. He was telling us that we are sent as sheep into a culture of wolves. We are the prey. We are the ones who are the lowest on the food chain. There are those licking their lips at our arrival. Jesus knew this and gave us great wisdom in how to handle this world. He told us to be as wise as serpents and gentle (or innocent) as doves.

            This is how we are to navigate a world that seems so wrong to us. We are to remain wise. We are not to be carried away by every story we hear. Not every sad story is true. I have been a preacher long enough and heard enough sob stories to know how they go. Sometimes I want to stop the teller in the middle and finish the story for them. I have heard enough of them and I know how many gas tanks can be filled and electricity can be kept on with just a pocketful of cash. When you have heard them enough you start to get jaded. You start to recognize the lies and see the cons. After a few dozen of these stories you know longer see people, and you just see the bad decisions and their desire for their next drink or fix. There is nothing wrong with being able to see past a sad story and knowing the truth.

            One problem with the “wise as serpent” part is that if we stay right there we miss the “harmless/innocent as doves” part. We get so caught up with having to know the truth (and there is nothing wrong with knowing the truth, we should) we lose sight of the hurting people. We see a drunk trying to get 10 bucks from someone, so we miss how he is hurting. We see the parent’s bad decisions and do not want to allow them to continue that we miss the kids who are hurt. We lose our compassion because we believe everyone is running some type of game on us. We become jaded and people continue to hurt.

            There is a proper place for us. We are to be wise. We are to look for, and find, the truth. We are to be discerning. We are also to be loving, kind and good to people. It is just as easy to become someone who is so “innocent” they we are always being taken advantage of and become no good for any person. We are not to become so hard or so soft that no one gets to see the real Jesus in us. We are to be the perfect mixture of wise and innocent. Discerning and compassionate. We are to learn to say ‘no’ to those who need to hear it, and to say ‘yes’ to those who need to hear that. Ultimately, we are to be more like Jesus. We are to lament over our city (Matt 23:37-39) and drive out money changers in our midst (Matt. 21:12-13). It is possible to live in this world and not be stained by it. It is possible to be both loving to the hurt and wise for the accused. We can be both civil and correct. We must be more like Jesus.

MJ

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