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‘Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: and therefore you are to be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves’. (Matthew 10:16)
Jesus was saying that his disciples whom he sends out to proclaim the good news and heal the sick are to be alert and shrewd in the assessment of everyone they come in contact with. They are as sheep amongst wolves.
It doesn’t sound a very optimistic analysis of the world but the fact is the world can be a difficult and dangerous environment.
Being wise as serpents means being mindful of your own interests or being prudent.
The coronavirus has certainly made us all on our guard.
I recall growing up and my Dad saying whenever I had a plan to do something, ‘do you think that is a good idea? Is that wise?’ I can still hear him!
Prudence is described as the ‘charioteer of the virtues’, the quality that can safely guide and steer us through dangers or difficulties.
We are to be innocent as doves. This really means pure, without evil mixed in, free of wrong, not likely to cause harm.
Jesus asks it of us. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. The Bible tells us that Jesus was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled’.
We can be these things too, becoming like Jesus, learning to respect each other as neighbour, as brothers, as sisters.
The Holy Spirit who in Scripture appeared like a dove can inspire us to follow the way of Jesus and live out these ways.
Reverend Dr Malcolm Kinnear,
Minister of Kinlochleven and Nether Lochaber Parish Church