Members of civic clubs are always told what they should do to increase membership.
“Tell people what they can gain by joining the club,” one organizer said. “Tell them of all the benefits of membership.” The organizer said that people will want to know what membership will do for them. When they find out, he said, they will join.
It is absolutely amazing, then, that when Jesus talked to his disciples about their work in the coming kingdom, he spoke of persecution, beatings, and defenses in front of government officials.
To his credit, Jesus never offered membership in his kingdom with lies to people granting what was in it for them. Instead, he told the truth.
Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NASB).
Just to make sure we are all aware, we all know what happens when a sheep is sent into the middle of a pack of wolves, right?
In Jesus’ statement, does it catch your eye when the Lord said we should be “innocent as doves?” Have you ever asked yourself what good it would do to be innocent in a world that contains the worst kind of people?
The answer is in Philippians 2:14-15. The apostle Paul, writing from prison to a great congregation of the Lord’s church, told his fellow Christians that they needed to be innocent because they must shine as lights in a sinful world.
Wait a minute. This sinful world is going to persecute us and take us before the judges to imprison us. They are hateful, miserable human beings, and you expect innocence as our response?
This word “innocent” as used in the New Testament originally meant purity in metals. Pure gold is not adulterated with any other metal. The New Testament Christian is not adulterated with the evil of the world. The child of God remains pure and innocent in the presence of hatred, malice and, yes, violence. God’s people are harmless.
We must. We are supposed to be showing people the light. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Will the world believe what we say about Jesus if we are as evil as they? Will they, indeed be able to see “what is in it” for them?
Living the Christian life is not easy. Christ’s people live as lights because the world needs to see the light.