Last night, I tried to give an update in the form of a limerick. It didn’t pan out, so I’ll spare you, but I did realize that I must discover again what it means to be childlike.
My beautiful friends asked, “Do you find joy in what you do?” in the incredulous ways friends do when you’ve just thoroughly depressed them. I snapped out of the glazed-over “here’s-how-I-answer-questions-about-my-job” mode and realized I will not survive if I forget to be as innocent as a dove.
Being innocent is possible.
Evil is not a new thing. It has not developed with the introduction of new laws and the deterioration of others. Evil has been around since those two lovebirds had a forbidden meal in paradise. Jesus’s “sending out” was not to go into the world and build houses to hide inside, away from the evil. Wisdom like serpents doesn’t come from staying safe, incubated from the weary world outside our doors. Jesus admonishes his followers to be innocent as doves – to step into all the ugliness and evil and somehow stay innocent.
Jesus was well aware of how twisted and sinful the world was when he gave this directive.
“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)
Being innocent is possible because Jesus is involved and he said so. That’s the bottomline. He would not command his followers to do something impossible – something He would not make possible in His power. I believe being innocent in this ugly, evil world is possible because God said so.
Being innocent is painful.
For a long time, I had the wrong view of innocence – a sheltered and unexposed upbringing fashioned it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond thankful that I didn’t know many things of the world until recently (and still am pretty clueless). I am thankful for all the ways I was trained up by my parents in righteousness and pointed towards Truth. Where my view of innocence got tangled up was when I started equating my experience to innocence. This does not match up with the experience for which Jesus was preparing His disciples. They would see horrible things, hear horrible things, and experience horrible things. They were not to sit comfortably indoors, far from the evil raging outside. Jesus commanded them to walk towards the pain and even into the pain so they could speak words He would give them. I love that His recruiting schpeel is probably the least persuasive invitation you’ll ever read. “Come, you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” There is no sugarcoating this gig. Jesus is clearly not out to win the crowds into his service.
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. (Matthew 10:17-22)
Being innocent ends in reward.
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.(Matthew 10:22-23 ESV)
Jesus sent them out, into the evil, and told them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I often turn this over and over in search of something spelled out in letters that can slice a dividing line. When am I too much like a serpent and when am I too fearful and distant like a dove? How does one straddle two extremes perfectly as she walks out the kingdom directive to go?
I mean that as simply and mysteriously as it sounds. Christ answers our questions of when and how by telling us to be both wise and innocent, an impossible thing. In this impossibility, we begin to understand He is also the reward. Only someone who is God could give an impossible directive. Christ enables the straddling of two extremes in a way that brings us to our knees in praise. This most powerful God calls us into the impossible at the same time that He invites us into His presence. How deep the Father’s love that He would enter such a twisted, evil world and invite us to be with Him – to share in His heart for the nations. How deep the Father’s love. This is our reward.
Christ is the way we walk out wisdom and fly out innocence. Christ is the reason I can laugh and jump and play like a child even while I am learning the evils of worldly wisdom.