Devotional: ‘Wise as Serpents and Harmless as Doves’

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Matthew 10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

These words have been troublesome to many. How could anyone not love their parents? Yet the Lord is not telling us to stop loving our family. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for using their traditions as an excuse for not caring for their needy parents. (Mk 7:7-13) Paul tells us that – “those who won’t care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” (1 Tim 5:8 NLT) No, the Bible does not teach us to turn our backs on our parents. What then does Jesus mean when He says – “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”?

To properly understand the meaning of scripture, we must always keep it within its original context. What were the circumstances that prompted Jesus to say these things? A good reference might be yesterday’s devotional.

The context in which Jesus was saying these words had to do with the world’s rejection of Christianity.

Matthew 10:12 When you are invited into someone’s home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. 14 If a village doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, shake off the dust of that place from your feet as you leave.

Matthew 10:17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. 18 And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me — yes, to witness to the world.

Jesus was warning His disciples about the cost of becoming one of His followers. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and therefore – “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18) Though it is not our intent to have the world hate us, we must never forget that being a follower of Christ will not make us popular. Men love darkness rather than light and therefore, when the church shines as a city upon a hill, there will be opposition. Unfortunately, sometimes that opposition may come from some within our own household.

Matthew 10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will rise against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me…

Matthew 10:34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. 35 I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!

Down through the centuries, many have paid a high price for being a believer. Today there is more persecution than ever before. In many cultures, a son or daughter is turned away whenever they are converted to Christianity. No doubt that happened often during the early days of the church when many were leaving Judaism in order to follow Christ. Therefore, it was within that context that Jesus said  – “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (Mt 10:37)

Such a decision must be very painful for many. Rather than fight with our family over our faith, we would love to have fellowship. Yet unfortunately, sometimes that is not possible. But even in the worst of circumstances, we must maintain a Christ-like spirit. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Mt 10:16)

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