Wise yet Harmless

John 4:1-3 WEB

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [2] (although Jesus himself didn’t baptize, but his disciples), [3] he left Judea, and departed into Galilee.

Jesus epitomized the scripture that says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 WEB) When he learned he had attracted the attention of the Pharisees he departed Judea and went to Galilee. In chapter 3 of John, John the Baptist pronounced Jesus as the way to heaven. John as much as declared Jesus the messiah. Jesus’ response to this was to pack up and leave the area.

Jesus understood the Pharisees hated him. While professing zeal for God, they demonstrated with their behaviors that they actually despised God. What they liked was the glory of standing before the people. Jesus was threatening their glory.

Have you ever heard a minister preaching compromise? Why would they do this? The exact demonstration of hatred for God may have changed, but the root cause of the sin is the same. Namely, a desire for people to glorify themselves rather than God. Preaching the untainted gospel has with it the risk of people rejecting the messenger.

Jesus was often scorned and rejected by those to whom he ministered, On the other hand, many were saved as well. This is important to notice. Jesus experienced both rejection and acceptance. He told his disciples to shake the dust from their feet when they were rejected. Literally, to pronounce condemnation on those who rejected their message.

Can you imagine a modern-day preacher declaring condemnation for rejection of the gospel? They would be heckled and counted as a hypocrite for such preaching. People still have little tolerance for the untainted message of the gospel. That message is that Christ alone saves those whom he will and rejects the disobedient. Telling people that Jesus will save them is not too hard. On the other hand, telling people they must be obedient to the whole Bible or face eternal torment is not accepted by most people.

People want salvation to be a democratic affair. As if we can choose which passages are relevant while declaring others irrelevant. Some of this has been caused by modern-day zealots. Ministers who teach a heartless gospel of condemnation drive the lost away from God. They preach to a mouth-foaming crowd that wants confirmation that they are better than everyone else. But the word of God does not counsel this. Rather, it says to be wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove.

As Christians, we have to learn to declare the truth from a place of love for the world. The Father desires the world to be saved (John 3:16). We can declare condemnation for the lost in love. We can plead with the lost to turn their hearts fully to the Father through the grace of Jesus Christ. We can demonstrate obedience thereby duplicating it in those who are new in the Lord.

Lord, please help me walk wisely while remaining harmless to those with whom I share the gospel. Please forgive me for being immature and heartless. I’m sorry for withholding love from the lost. Please forgive me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

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