“It takes godly wisdom to know who we should—and shouldn’t—engage with.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – November 28, 2023
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34
Yesterday morning I woke, rolled over in bed, and reached for my phone to check my appointments for the day. A familiar scripture popped up on the screen. It was something Jesus told his disciples before sending them out to be witnesses for Him and a reminder that persecution would come.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV).
My first thoughts were: Really? Sheep among wolves? Why not wise wolves among wolves? But sheep among wolves? Sheep are soft, vulnerable, and easily attacked.
I later looked up the Message Translation which says, “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack . . .Be as shrewd as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.”
This wonderful passage in God’s Word reveals that the way to survive difficult, toxic, and mean people isn’t through brute force and aggression. It’s through wisdom. It’s to be a wise sheep. The Lord wants to give all his children the wisdom and power they need when dealing with emotionally unsafe, highly opinionated, and even hostile people.
Throughout Christ’s ministry, Jesus handled wolves with wisdom. Once, after He announced His identity by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 to a group of people in the synagogue, they became furious.
So, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff” (Luke 4:29).
But Jesus was wise as a serpent. The Word says, “. . .he walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (v.30).
He didn’t confront them. He didn’t try to reason with them. He simply ignored them. It takes godly wisdom to know who we should—and shouldn’t—engage with. In this passage Jesus surely knew that engaging with them would be fruitless. It would be fruitless to try to change their mind. It would be fruitless to try to make peace with them because they were bent on hurting Him. They were unsafe.
Before I married, there was a man who was interested in me who had some very strong opinions about masculine and feminine roles in marriage as well as doctrinal issues with which I disagreed. He was controlling in his delivery of his opinions, and I wanted to handle my conversation with him rightly.
I spoke with a woman who was an older, wiser believer in Christ and asked for advice. She listened intently about my situation and then she prayed with me. After she raised her head, she said, “I sense the Lord is telling me to remind you not to wrangle with him.” That made sense. I shouldn’t argue, debate, or try to change his mind. I shouldn’t get defensive, angry, or try to get in the last word. That would have been fruitless. It wouldn’t have been beneficial for either of us, and it could have been emotionally harmful for both of us too. This is often the way of the wise with unsafe people—and wisdom can preserve one’s very life.
There are certainly times when a discussion is needed to promote understanding and it’s best—when possible—to be open to live with others in harmony (Romans 12:18). The best way is the way of love. But sometimes that’s just not possible because others are not open. Their agenda is the only agenda. They only want to put you in your place and their ears are closed.
All believers encounter “wolves.” In these situations, it’s best to pray for them as Jesus taught us to do, forgive and then do as He did. Just “walk through the crowd and go your way.” And remember not to wrangle. This is the way of a wise sheep.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . .” (Matthew 5:44).
Lord, give me wisdom to know who to engage with and who not to engage with. Help me to be an example of your love with those I agree with and those I don’t, with those who hurt me and those who are kind. Help me to keep in mind that dissension does not glorify You. I love you, Jesus. Amen.
Practice what you learned today with a difficult person and see what happens.
Matthew West: Forgiveness
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