by Michael E. Brooks
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NKJV).
We have watched news accounts of the violence in American Embassies located in Islamic nations during recent days. These events are both disturbing and saddening.
We think of those injured and killed and of their families. Our sympathies and our prayers go out to and for them.
Thankfully there is no indication of similar outbursts here in Bangladesh, at least for the present. The Muslim majority here is less volatile ordinarily and not quite as quick to take offense at such things as have apparently inspired the violence in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
We are not however taking peace for granted, nor neglecting our security. Jesus’ warning to believers that they should be wise because they are like sheep among wolves is very appropriate. As always we are trying to exercise the maximum practical security, while still carrying on our work. Please remember us in your prayers.
As to those who do deliberately provocative things, I would like to remind them that normally other people pay the price for their actions. It is far too easy for someone to burn a book in Florida, or make a video in California, then sit and watch while others half a world away suffer the consequences of the anger they have aroused.
The other admonition Jesus made to his followers was to be “harmless as doves.” Christians should not, must not, be provocateurs, deliberately instigating trouble. Misguided people who believe good may be advanced by doing harmful things, do not understand the nature of Christ.
Not all harmful actions are as obvious as book burnings or offensive productions. One may set a questionable example before a young person, and maybe never realize the mistakes and suffering he or she will experience in later years. Or someone might make a careless comment in front of a stranger and contribute to misunderstandings that can harm many.
Let us always consider the possible consequences of every word or act. There is a principle that might be called the “Law of Worst Possible Effect.” When considering whether one should do something he should first ask, “If this turns out badly, what is the worst consequence that can result?”
Is the benefit of doing it worth the risk that is assumed? If it does turn out badly, could the decision be satisfactorily defended to those affected?
That series of questions allows us to carefully consider all we do, and to choose against those involving unacceptable risks. It takes seriously the reality of unintended consequences.
Like ripples in a pond, everything we do has results. Bad results are more easily avoided in advance than corrected afterwards. We avoid them by doing things that promise harmlessness. We must be wise by learning what God desires, so we can avoid many problems of this life.