Correct Thinking In A Hostile Environment
© 07.18.09 By D. Eric Williams
Thus far in our examination of Matthew 10 we have seen that Jesus has chosen the 12 Apostles and sent them into the harvest. He has given them a plan, discussed the provision and provided an outline of the process. Today were going to see that Jesus tells his apostles of the need to think like God thinks in the midst of persecution while they await Christ's revelation.
As we continue our examination of this section of Matthew's gospel we need to keep in mind that Jesus is giving instructions that pertain to the first century Jewish Mission. It was necessary that the Jewish nation receive the exclusive attention of the Messiah so that all the promises that had been made to the patriarchs might be fulfilled. In keeping with this exclusive character of Christ's ministry, the Apostles were told to go to Israel only. This Jewish focus became semi-exclusive in the generation which followed Jesus' death and resurrection when the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles as well. Therefore when we look at these words of Jesus Christ we must understand that he is instructing his Apostles concerning their behavior in the Jewish Mission of the first century. Most, if not all, of the original apostles continued to focus their evangelistic efforts on their countrymen after Christ's resurrection and ascension. Even the apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, always went to the Jewish people first.
Therefore, when we examine this section of Scripture we need to do so in the proper context so that we might discover the principles therein and apply them to our circumstance in this current age.
In Matthew 10:16-23 it says: Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Think Like God Thinks
Jesus doesn't pull any punches when he tells his disciples that he is sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. The picture that Christ's paints here is none too encouraging. If you know anything about what happens when sheep encounter wolves then you realize that Jesus is telling his apostles that they are very likely going to suffer while they fulfill this call to evangelize Israel. It is not uncommon for wolves to come into a flock of sheep and to kill indiscriminately. When wolves pass through a flock of sheep, they leave a tremendous amount of carnage behind.
Jesus is telling his apostles that those men who are supposed to be shepherds of Israel will actually turn out to be wolves. Unfortunately this is a characteristic of the Jewish leadership that had been common for centuries. The old covenant Prophets discuss this kind of behavior on the part of the Jewish leadership in their time.
Indeed, the "wolves among the sheep" scenario is not limited to just the Jewish nation. The apostle Paul warned the Church leaders of Ephesus that savage wolves would arise from among their own number. And the wolf like character was not limited to the leadership; there were many Jews who were all too willing to follow in the footsteps of their Canis lupus leaders. Thus, Jesus is telling his apostles about a situation that they would have been familiar with.
In light of the hardship that they would encounter at the hands of these ungodly leaders Jesus tells them that they need to learn to think as God thinks. Now, it might shock you that I have said that Jesus tells them to think as God thinks because he says to them they should be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."
We don't normally think of God as having a mental process like a serpent. Indeed, when we think of a serpent we visualize the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden because of the influence of the serpent who was under the control of Satan. However, in the ancient world the serpent was a symbol of cunning and shrewd thinking. The Greek term that Jesus uses when he says that they should be "wise" as serpents is the same term that he uses when he describes the prudent steward (Luke 16:1–8). The term means to be a wise and prudent and mindful of one's own interests.
Now, obviously, to be shrewd and crafty without the balance of godliness would be to de-evolve into selfishness and ungodly behavior. This is why Jesus introduces the balancing idea of being as "harmless as doves."
The dove was not a common symbol in the ancient world for innocence or harmlessness. Indeed the only scriptural passage that provides some insight into what Jesus was talking about is found in Hosea 7:11 where the dove is pictured as easily deceived and senseless. I suppose what Jesus is saying is that to be as harmless as a dove as to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It means that you do nothing that would cause harm to another. In short Jesus telling his apostles that they must be shrewd and cunning but in a loving way. That may sound impossible but the fact of the matter is it is how God himself thinks.
Examples of this kind of thought are found throughout the Scripture. Unfortunately, most examples that we think of seem to be negative. For instance, the Hebrew midwives in Egypt showed cunning in protecting the Israelite boys from the murderous intent of Pharaoh. They are presented as boldface liars by most modern commentators. If you remember the story, you recall that they were commended to kill the Hebrew baby boys at birth. However, they told the Pharaoh that by the time they arrived the babies were already born. They said that ths happened because the Hebrew women were more vigorous than the Egyptian women. I would challenge you to find a commentator who views this deception on the part of the Hebrew midwives in a positive light. However, we must remember that they were powerless before the Pharaoh and they had the duty to obey God rather than men. For all we know the Hebrew midwives may have stood outside the door until they received a particular signal or something that told them that the baby was born – or perhaps if there was a need for their immediate attention. In any case we don't know all the details to this. True, they were misleading Pharaoh but they did what they had to do and the Bible says that because of their actions they were blessed with families of their own. In other words, God looked upon their behavior with favor. They were cunning as serpents and as harmless as doves. Indeed, if we want to take this further, we should realize that their preservation of the Hebrew baby boys was a benefit to the Israelites and to the Egyptians both. Therefore, their cunning thought process was guided by an attitude of love.
Another example from the Old Testament would be the behavior of Jael who killed Sisera. As you recall, Jael was a Kenite, related to the father-in-law of Moses. Israel was at war with Jabin king of Canaan whose army commander was Sisera. When Barak lead the armies of Israel against the forces of Jabin he defeated the Canaanites and Sisera fled on foot. As events turned out, Sisera happened upon the tent of Jael and asked for sanctuary. She obliged him but having lulled him to sleep she used a tent peg to assassinate him, driving the peg through his temple and into the ground with a workman's hammer.
It is common to consider Jael a sinful woman of no conscience. We are often told that she violated one of the most basic customs of ancient near Eastern culture in pretending to extend hospitality but only doing so in order to hide her evil intent. Unfortunately those commentators who say this have everything backwards. It was Sisera who violated the most basic of ancient near Eastern cultural taboos. He entered the tent of a woman not his wife. We don't know where Jael's husband or other male protector was at the time. If a male of her family or clan had been there then Sisera would never have been allowed into her tent. Thus, Sisera was willing to compromise the reputation of Jael in order to save his own life. What we need to understand is that Jael had every right to kill this intruder. Since there was no male protector at hand she did what she had to do in order to guard her honor and (we might say incidentally), do the work of the Lord as well. Indeed, the prophetess Deborah had told Barak that a woman would have the honor of killing Sisera and this is exactly what happened.
Therefore in the case of Jael we see a woman who was cunning enough to go along with the situation until she found the opportunity to restore her honor. It may be hard to see how Jael was as harmless as a dove but, believe it or not, she was acting out of love. The love of Jael was for Yahweh and the reputation of her husband and his clan. If we knew of a woman who used quick thinking similar to Jael's to protect herself and her family from a criminal intruder - quick thinking which resulted in the death of that interloper - we would consider her a heroine not a liar and a cheat.
Cunning and loving thought is displayed in the story of Queen Esther. As you recall the Agaite Haman had hatched a plot to destroy the Jewish people. In response to the urging of her cousin Mordechai, Esther came up with a way to grab the attention of Ahasuerus the King and increase her chances of getting a favorable ruling in the matter Haman and the Jews.
Now, her approach to this would not have worked with every man but she apparently knew the temperament of the King quite well. Instead of simply spilling the beans right off the bat, Esther created an atmosphere of tense expectation which appealed to the King's sense of adventure and probably helped alleviate his royal boredom. Over a period of a couple days Esther heightened the interest of the King. Then, at the appropriate time, she appealed to his sense of justice on behalf of her people. As a result, Haman was killed and his evil plot was thwarted.
Perhaps you have never stopped to consider the cunning thought process of Queen Esther. Clearly she was as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove in the way that she brought this situation to a head. She is a good example of how the apostles would need to think in order to successfully navigate the perils of the first century Jewish mission.
Godly cunning is displayed in the story of Ahab's demise. As you recall the prophet Micaiah was brought before Ahab and Jehoshaphat to provide Yahweh's perspective on Ahab's expedition against Syria. As a result Micaiah described a scene where God called together the spirits and told them to present their plan as to how King Ahab would be persuaded to go to battle so that he might die. A spirit came forward and said "I will persuade him." The Lord asked how (and rhetorical question obviously). The spirit replied that he would go as a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all of the prophets of Ahab. God said to go out and do so because he would be successful in persuading Ahab to go to battle. As you know, this is exactly what happened. The irony is that king Ahab was warned and he still went to battle. This is an example of the cunning thought process of God. God will accomplish what he desires to be done and he will use the tools which he has at hand. Not because he has to but because God enjoys complicated things. Moreover, the love of God is shown in this episode as well. His love is for his own glory and the benefit of his people. These things were realized in the death of King Ahab.
Additional examples might be examined but I think you get the point. Jesus is telling his disciples to think carefully and craftily about how they can best glorify the name of God and express his concern for the lost sheep of Israel. They must do this in the midst of hostility. Sometimes this will require moving in a direction that they would not normally consider. For instance, when Paul was on trial before Festus he appealed to Caesar. Although Paul had no desire to bring an accusation against his own people (Acts 28:19) he was sharp enough to use his Roman citizenship to protect himself and the ministry that God had called him to accomplish.
As you can see, it may have been difficult for the apostles to navigate the hardships of the Jewish mission. They would have to have a thorough knowledge of how God thinks in order to make the right choices when faced with opposition. And that is what Jesus is telling them to do. To be cunning and crafty but to never lose sight of the fact that love does no harm to a neighbor. In short, cunning and prudent behavior must be guided by an unfailing love for God and his people.
It is never easy for human beings to think as God thinks. It is not something that we should assume we can do without difficulty. And so Jesus tells his apostles that it is the prerequisite they must consider before entering into this dangerous work of the Jewish mission.
In the midst of persecution
In contrast to "God think" is the way that mankind thinks. This is Jesus' point when he says "beware of men." In other words men do not think as God thinks. Specifically the leadership of the Jewish nation and much of the population of the first century did not think in a godly fashion. Because the leadership and those who were like them were thinking of themselves first they would deliver the apostles to the councils and scourge them in the synagogues.
The context clearly reveals that Christ is speaking of the first century Jewish mission in this entire section. There are those who would want us to believe that Christ is looking ahead to some period of time thousands of years in the future when the "end times" come. However, Jesus was describing a first century Jewish setting
It took quite awhile for the Church to sever its ties to the Jewish religion. The book of Acts reveals that the Jews who followed Jesus continued to meet in the temple. Paul would routinely go to the synagogue in whatever city he found himself. History tells us that in that first generation after the death and resurrection of Jesus the Church retained a very Jewish character. Indeed, this is because the believers in Jesus recognized themselves as the true Israel. It is this kind of circumstance that Christ has in mind. The councils and the synagogues had no authority over Gentiles. There was no connection between the Jewish culture and the Gentile world at any point in the history of Christianity. The only time the councils and the synagogues persecuted the Church was when the Church was considered a Jewish sect and therefore seen as heretical in the eyes of the Jewish people. Thus, we understand that Jesus was telling his apostles about the persecution they could expect throughout the entire Jewish mission.
And I should say something here; I'm not suggesting that the time to evangelize Jews came to a conclusion with the end of the old covenant administration. When I say the "Jewish mission" I am simply referring to that first century emphasis on the nation of Israel. Jesus came to evangelize the Jews and he wanted his Apostles to continue the special Jewish mission until the old covenant age came to its final conclusion with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Therefore, the Jewish mission that I speak of was a very specific missionary effort to the Jewish nation in the first century. That's what Christ had in mind here. It was not just the time when they were going out to the cities that Christ would later preach in. Instead, it included the entire first generation after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension. That Jewish mission was characterized by a persecution of the Church.
As we know from the book of Acts, the Jews eventually sought to have the "heretics" punished by the civil authorities as well. The history of Paul is fraught with attempts by the Jews to have the Roman authorities squelch his ministry. Therefore, throughout the time of this Jewish mission the apostles (and other first century missionaries), would be brought before governors and kings for Jesus sake.
Jesus said that they would come before the civil leaders as a testimony to the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. It wasn't simply happenstance. It wasn't something that took place just because the Jews happened to have the upper hand during that time period. Instead, it was the hand of God which brought them before kings that they might testify concerning the reign of Jesus Christ in this realm.
For instance, Christ told Paul very specifically that he was going to go to Rome and plead his case there so that he would be able to "bear witness at Rome." It was God's intention that Paul, in chains a prisoner of the state, witness to the Roman rulers. And it was not just the Gentile rulers who were impacted by Paul's witness. The Jewish people likewise witnessed to the commitment and courage of the Christians. They heard the word of the kingdom as it was presented to the Gentiles. And please understand: they were not called to defend themselves or the actions of the Church but to proclaim Jesus as the Lord of the universe.
This seems like a tall order. It seems that it might have been difficult for these commoners to impress anyone – especially the sophisticated rulers of the Roman Empire. Today in democratic America we don't see our leadership in the same light that they did in ancient near Eastern Palestine. Indeed, the entire ancient world looked upon civil rulers as a cut above the common man. Certainly the Christians and the Jews would not see them as deity; most of the rest of the ancient world would view the Emperor as a god.
In any case, this would be a very intimidating circumstance for the lowly class of people which made up most of the early church. The Apostles and their followers came from the lowest classes of society. Even the Apostle Paul who was learned in the Jewish scripture was a tent maker and no rhetorician. Indeed, when he went before the representatives of the Roman Empire his opponents brought along someone who was trained in rhetoric in order to present the case against him.
Therefore Jesus says when they are delivered up that they should not worry about what they would say to these sophisticated Roman civil leaders. They would be given the words to say when they stood before the Gentile rulers.
This isn't to suggest that the apostles and the other Christians of the first century were supposed to avoid the study of Scripture and avoid scholarship. No, the Holy Spirit typically works with the materials he has at hand. The apostle Paul (to use his example yet again), was well taught and knew the Scripture through and through. It is interesting that of all the Apostles and the others who worked in the first century Jewish mission, it is Paul who gets the most "press" in the New Testament. He was someone who spoke as the Spirit led, no doubt, but the Spirit utilized those things that Paul had discovered in his lifelong study of Scripture. That lifelong study of Scripture was at hand when the Holy Spirit moved upon Paul to convert him. That scripture was dead without the Spirit, but with the Spirit that Scripture, that understanding of God's Word, became a formidable weapon in the hands of God.
Therefore, Jesus did not say they should avoid learning. He was simply telling them that they didn't need to worry about what they would say or how they would to say it when they were confronted with this awesome responsibility of speaking the word of the kingdom to the Roman rulers.
Part of the hardship during that time of the Jewish mission was the fact that it became difficult to know who you could trust. Jesus told the apostles that during that time of the Jewish mission brothers would deliver a brother to death and fathers would deliver the children and the children rise against their parents and cause them to be put to death.
We don't have specific accounts of this in the New Testament nor do we have a lot of detail in the extra biblical history from the first century. We do know, however, from the Bible that there were many who went out from the church and became "antichrists." John's epistle was written during this Jewish mission and apparently toward the end of that generation which was receiving this semi-exclusive effort. In 1 John 2:18-19 we read: Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
In other words the Church of the first century knew that they were nearing the end of the old age because there were many people who were leaving the Church. According to John and according to the apostle Paul there came a point in the first century when the Church began to lose membership. Paul said that everyone in Asia had turned against him. He named several specific former companions who had left the faith and were now in opposition to him. It would be in this atmosphere that this warning of Jesus would begin to make sense. Christ himself said that the message of the kingdom would divide families. And according to the New Testament account that is exactly what began to happen as the old covenant age wound down to its dramatic conclusion and the new covenant age was fully revealed.
Jesus plainly told his Apostles that they would be hated because the world already hated him. Nevertheless they were to remain firm until the end. I believe that Jesus was telling them that they must remain steadfast in their profession of faith until that day that Christ was revealed or they died in the harness. He was not talking about the rapture or anything of that sort at this point. Instead he was affirming that they must not be among those who denied the name of Christ as an anitchrist. Not only were they called to avoid denying Christ they were called to continue working in this commission to take the gospel to the Jews. It didn't matter how bad the persecution became their job was to keep preaching the gospel from one city to the next. When a city became too hot for them they were supposed to move to the next. At no time did Jesus give them the option of quitting.
Until Christ's Revelation
Christ wanted his Apostles and the other missionaries of that first generation to stick to the program until the revelation of Christ or until they died. Those who endured to the end would be saved. This was not a reference to the end of all things. The end Christ has in mind is the end of the old covenant age.
Jesus told his apostles that they would not complete the Jewish mission even within the borders of Palestine before "the Son of Man comes." This phrase "the Son of Man comes" has specific theological meaning. It is a reference to the vision of Daniel as recorded in Daniel 7:13-14: I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
The "one like the Son of Man" in Daniel's vision is none other than Jesus himself. This one in the form of a man is in contrast to the beasts who had populated the visions of Daniel thus far. The significance is that man is now elevated to a position of authority in the economy of God. Adam had abdicated his position of authority and in his place angels and animals acted as representatives and mediators. Angels literally and animals both literally and figuratively; the blood of animals was shed to atone for sin and the kingdoms that gave oversight to the people of God were motivated by "beast" spirits.
It was understood that when the Son of Man came the reign of the Messiah would be realized. When the Son of Man came there was a restoration of the Edenic order. This event took place over a period of time. One of the things we need to remember that God is not constrained by time as we are. God is above time and so there is no past, present or future for God. All is immediate to the Almighty. Therefore when we consider an event such as this we need to understand that in God's view it takes place in the present time. According to human understanding the revelation of the Son of Man took place over a generation. From our reckoning this revelation of the Son of Man began with his death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven. The revelation that the Son of Man had ascended to the throne – that he had come to the ancient of days and received a kingdom - was realized throughout the first century. The full revelation of Jesus Christ as the ruler of the universe took place with the conclusion of the old covenant administration in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
This progressive realization of the coming of the Son of Man to the ancient of days to receive a kingdom is noted by Jesus Christ when he tells the high priest that "hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). This coming with the clouds of heaven was not a coming to the Earth but was a "coming" to heaven. Remember what we just read in the book of Daniel. One like the Son of Man was coming with the clouds of heaven to the ancient of days. It's not a picture of Jesus coming back to earth in the clouds of heaven it is a picture of Jesus Christ going into heaven on the clouds to stand before the ancient of days. When that took place, he was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him.
Therefore Jesus was saying that this first century Jewish mission would hardly be finished before the full realization of Christ's enthronement as king was manifest. You see, this is what The Revelation of Jesus Christ is all about. I'm speaking of John's book which we call The Revelation of Jesus Christ. That book is all about the final and full revelation of Jesus, the Son of Man, who received a kingdom from the ancient of days. That circumstance was fulfilled in the events which signaled the conclusion of the old covenant administration 2000 years ago.
Therefore Jesus was telling his apostles that they needed to get on the stick. They did not have much time to complete the first century Jewish mission. In the midst of all the hardship and persecution, they had to keep their eye on the goal of completing this mission before Jesus Christ was fully revealed as king. Yes, Christ ascended into heaven only a few weeks after his resurrection and received the kingdom from his Father at that point. Jesus said as much when he told his apostles that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to him. This is an echo of what Daniel said. Yet, as it is with so much in the kingdom of God the intention of God is often realized over a period of time. And for the Apostles the fullness of that revelation of Christ was very near to hand.
Application: Think Like God Thinks
Just when you think you understand all that there is to know about God and his Word something new hits you right between the eyes. Most folks don't spend much time considering what it means to be as cunning and as crafty as a serpent while remaining harmless as doves. This is because we have failed to recognize that Jesus is telling his Apostles to think like God thinks. That should be obvious. Clearly Jesus was not going to tell his Apostles that they should compromise on godliness in order to get through the time of persecution of the first century Jewish mission.
Instead we must understand that Jesus was telling the apostles to think and act in a godly fashion. The problem is that Christ (once again), uses pithy and startling language to get his point across. It seems that today we have teachers of the Word who rather be prissy than pithy and so the people of God are left without a proper understanding of what it means a think as God thinks.
Clearly this is dangerous ground. It is dangerous to laud the actions of the Hebrew midwives or of Jael because it seems that we would be praising deception. It is dangerous for us to consider the craftiness of Esther in steering Ahasuerus toward a righteous decision or the cunning of Yahweh in luring Ahab to his death because we may be tempted to trick others into accomplishing what we consider a worthy goal.
I am not suggesting we should learn the art of deception or manipulation. That's not what the Bible teaches us. It does teach us that the purpose of God is more important than anything else in his life. The primary lesson we need to learn from Jesus' admonition to his Apostles is that we are called to apply our every energy and ability in accomplishing God's will. We must be better thinkers than anybody else out there. We need to look at every angle and play those angles in order to accomplish the things of God even while we act in love toward God and our fellow man.
No one said this is easy. But if nothing else I hope that you can see that there is a lot more in the Bible then you may have realized. This short, simple passage of scripture packs a tremendous wallop. Each of us must labor to learn how to think as God thinks. We cannot allow the world's definition of right thinking or the world's definition of morality to misguide us in our quest to learn wisdom. This is why it's so terribly important for us to know the Bible thoroughly. We must have that fuel for the fires of revelation stockpiled in our hearts so the Spirit of God can teach us what it means to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Application: In The Midst Of Persecution
I am of the opinion that the persecution which the apostles and others experienced during the first century Jewish mission will be replicated in our day and age. I don't mean that it is a prelude to the end of all things. I simply mean that if things continue moving the direction they are here in the United States of America, we can expect to be persecuted for our faith some day in the near future. This seems foreign to us because most of us do not live a life that would invite persecution. Most Christians in 21st-century America have embraced the religion of tolerance rather than the radical faith of the kingdom of God.
Even now we need to know how to act in the midst of persecution. Even now the church is under assault as our federal government seeks to criminalize Biblical preaching and Biblical evangelism. If our national government has its way, it will become a crime to tell a homosexual he is a sinner in need of salvation. Indeed, it is not a stretch to then realize that it will be a crime to tell anyone that they are sinner in need of salvation. Just as the Christians in the first century Jewish mission were brought before the Jewish courts we may find ourselves brought before the courts in our own land. We cannot allow this to turn us away from the task of preaching the kingdom in word and deed.
We may not realize it but we already have the privilege of standing before governors and kings for the sake of Jesus Christ In the first century that privilege was seen as a terrifying duty. In our day and age we can simply pick up the phone or write a letter or use our e-mail to speak the truth of the kingdom to our "governors and kings." We may also find ourselves physically before the courts for refusing to bow the knee to Caesar when we are told to keep our mouths shut concerning a sinner's need for a Savior. In any case, we do not have to face the prospect of speaking the word of the kingdom to governors and kings with fear. Like the Apostles, we have the Spirit of God to guide us.
Once again it is important for us to know the Bible so that the Spirit has the material at hand to guide us in our "preaching" to kings. As I have already said, this passage does not give us an excuse for ignorance. This passage is not supposed to lead us to believe that we can go through life without theology. It is simply a reminder that God is the one who is in charge and he will be with us when we are called upon to defend the faith.
Although Jesus warned his first century audience that they should expect opposition from their closest companions we should not take this to mean that it will never happen to us. It is a sad fact that there are divisions within the Church even today. It is an unfortunate reality that we often see Christians pitted against Christians. Throughout the history of the Church the greatest obstacle to the forward movement of the Church has often been dissatisfied members of the community of faith.
There were many antichrists in the first century. There were many people (according to John), who were part of the Church but then left and denied the faith. We see this happening throughout the history of the Church and it continues to happen today. My point is that we should not be caught off guard. The apostle Paul said that anyone who wants to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted and it is often from within the Church that persecution will arise.
We cannot allow this to keep us from continuing to do the will of God. If we find that it becomes too hot for us in one spot then we need to move to the next. If we find that we are rejected in one place because of our godliness (and we better be sure it's because of our commitment to Jesus Christ and not our self-centered behavior), then we need to move on to the next place. In every case we must be focused on doing the will of the Father to the very best of our ability. We must do this in the wisdom of God. We must always be thinking as God thinks always careful that our crafty thought process does not de-evolve into cheap, self-centered cunning.
All the while it is important to keep in mind that the world will hate us. They will hate us because they first hated Jesus Christ. To the degree that we express Jesus Christ in this realm will find ourselves friendless. This is okay. Our job is to endure to the end of our life as those who are called into relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
To be very practical in this application we must touch on the fact that we need to think as God thinks in all of our life experience. As far as I know none of us in this Church are suffering from persecution. I realize some of us may be ridiculed or demeaned from time to time (or even quite often), but we are not in fear of our life or property because of our commitment to Jesus Christ. But that doesn't mean that we are not required to think like God and navigate this life in a way that is pleasing to him.
Perhaps our best example is that of Queen Esther. Yes, the fate of the Jewish nation was in the balance but her solution to the problem was really rather mundane. All she did was think carefully about how to guide the king in the right direction. I suppose we could say she manipulated the king but I have no doubt that the king enjoyed the entire affair.
There is nothing wrong with getting people to do the right thing through skillful - crafty - thought and action. If we saw a child standing on the edge of a precipice about to fall to his death we would not consider it wrong to entice him - -to manipulate him - to move away from the edge of the cliff by offering a piece of candy. To hold the candy out and say "if you come to me you can have the candy" is to manipulate the child but it is in order to save his life.
No doubt king Ahasuerus enjoyed the drama that Esther introduced into his life. If you remember the story he was up all night before the second banquet. I imagine he couldn't sleep because he was so excited about this "playacting" of his beautiful Queen. He knew that she was trying to get something from him. That was the whole point of the show. She had told him that right up front. But the way in which he went about it was enjoyable to the king and as he told her, he was happy to grant her any request she might make.
Thus, as we navigate this life in the wisdom of God we need to think about how we can be as cunning as serpents and as harmless as doves. That kind of thought process should be evident in our relationships on a day-to-day basis. We don't need to wait for persecution to come in order to learn how to think and live this way.
Application: Christ's Revelation
Even though Jesus Christ's enthronement has been fully realized with the conclusion of the old covenant administration, it remains true that his reign continues to be progressively manifest in this realm. The day will come when the kingdom of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. The day will come when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We live in the age when Jesus Christ is enthroned and his kingdom has been established. We are not waiting for some cataclysmic event which will allow us to demonstrate his reign in our life more fully. There is no big event in our future that will reveal the reign of Jesus Christ in some new dramatic way. We live in the new covenant age. The one like the Son of Man has already come in the clouds of heaven to the ancient of days where he received his kingdom. He already has authority and dominion and a kingdom that will never end. We already live in the age wherein the promises given to the fathers are fulfilled.
In other words we have a job to do and there is no reason for us not to do it.