Key verse: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10: 16)
The Lord Jesus used the dove as a model for harmlessness and innocence, and the serpent for wisdom and cunning.
harmless – lacking capacity or intent to injure; not causing or being capable of causing injury or hurt; synonyms – innocent, inoffensive; related words – gentle, gracious, mild.
In our discussion, we’ll be focusing on the second part of Matthew 10:16 which is, “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. Serpent, as we know it, is wise, subtle. It knows how to approach a prey with precision but cautious enough not to endanger itself, whereas the dove is a very gentle creature. It is a symbol of peace. (Noah sent forth the dove to see if the water has receded, and it came back with an olive leaf in its beak: a sign of life and of peace from God – Gen. 8:11).
The Lord wants us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. That is, we adapt the cunning of the serpent, but not to the extent that we trick, deceive, harm, injure, and we adapt the gentleness and innocence of the dove but not to the extent that we cannot teach, rebuke, or stand for the truth. To be wise but not injurious, and to be gentle but not weak. So, the attributes of one are limited by the other’s attributes to some extent, thereby creating a perfect harmony: wisdom with gentleness. It is actually the wisdom and gentleness of Christ lived.*
And where else do we start living this harmony of wisdom and gentleness but in our own home and community?
I had wanted to tackle these virtues, for they are the ones I desire so much to have and to hold, yet the ones that I often wrestle with on a daily basis. It’s not so much in the acquiring of wisdom or knowledge of which the Lord has been so generous to bless me with, but I believe that wisdom that’s lacking in gentleness and kindness, is vain.
I’m thankful that now in this part of my Christian walk, God has been so gracious to deepen my desire and pursuit in bearing the fruit of the Spirit, that it greatly saddens me when I seem to be not learning perfectly His commandments, or not fruitful enough, despite all the studying.
My desire as a mother and as a servant of Christ is to bear the fruit of the Spirit and live it in my daily walk, however challenging, difficult, or rigorous it may become sometimes.
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance… (Gal. 5:22-23)
One of my fervent prayers is to speak with wisdom and gentleness ALWAYS. That is, a real feeling of gentleness and kindness that emanates from the depth of my heart. My patient Savior knows the struggles I face everyday.
The virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 possesses this perfect combination of wisdom and kindness, and it is a wise thing to take it to heart and remember it always:
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (Prov. 31: 26)
Here are some ways I’ve found helpful in the daily practice of speaking with wisdom and gentleness:
The practice of pre-meditated answer
Before we even open our mouths to speak, meditate on what we are going to say. This is very helpful especially in the point of provocation. When provoked, or feeling impatient and irritable, we close our eyes and remember those verses and words that are full of wisdom, and be guided, and warned. In those moments of highly-charged emotion, it is best to delay an answer. This is taught in Proverbs 16: 1:
The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
So, we prepare the heart before we speak. While eyes are closed, I quickly remind myself with these: “Gentleness and kindness start now”; “I will not utter angry words that I will later regret”; “I will not reciprocate God’s goodness to me by hurting this person with my words and offending God”. And then, there are the verses:
… I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. (portion of Psalm 17:3)
Let your gentleness be evident to all… (Phil. 4: 5, NIV)
Delaying to answer by meditating is a practice of temperance. For he that is soon angry deals foolishly (Prov. 14: 17). We rein in our temper, and when we open our eyes and mouth, we are ready. We are ready to speak words with wisdom laced with gentleness, kindness, and patience.
When ready, speak with wisdom.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. (2 Tim. 2: 24)
We speak words that admonish, teach, remind, if need be. We speak words that encourage and edify, not words that insult or injure; words that bridge and unite and not divide; words that give hope, comfort, and bring peace and healing to the hearer. This is wisdom.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
Pray without ceasing for wisdom and a kind and gentle heart.
Pray to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Pray for a bigger love and a bigger heart to contain it. We water, God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3: 7). So we water our hearts by communing with God often, praising, worshiping, praying in earnest, with all fervor and humility, and by meditating on His Word night and day.
*Inspired by what I have read online regarding this subject. (Edited 6/10/2015).
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Dove photo taken from here.