Representing Righteousness in a godless culture.

Have you ever wondered what The Master was implying when He stated, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in Matthew 10:16?

In this blog, it is my intention to highlight the central rationale behind this statement as I will communicate in the first person, what was discovered in my personal review of this text. I pray that it will serve as an encouragement to those who are disciples of The Master.

Behold, it is I who is sending you out…”

Most of the last week, I was drawn to some of the readings from a book entitled, The Martyred Christian, written by Joan Winmill Brown. Ms. Brown had selected and edited some writings from the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.    The motivation for this blog came from one of Bonhoeffer’s writing entitled, “The Suffering of the Messengers.”  In this brief reading, the following statement enraptured by soul:

Neither failure nor hostility can weaken the messenger’s conviction that he/she has been sent by Jesus. That His word may be their strength, their stay and their comfort, Jesus repeats it. “Behold, I send you.” For this is no way they have chosen themselves, no undertaking of their own. It is, in the strict sense of the word, a mission.” [pg. 172]

This statement deeply moved me in knowing that Messiah has promised me [and each follower]  His abiding presence even when I find myself defenseless, powerless and in danger. As I meditated on this statement,  I was taken aback by my initial encounter with Messiah in 1975 when I was confused, lost and engulfed with great fear and uncertainty in my life and future.

In my personal reflection of this spiritual encounter with The Master, in Danville, Virginia, [the place where I committed my life to God], I reread Matthew 10 almost like for the very first time as the following words illuminated off of the pages of my Bible: [summoned, gave, sent, proclaim, sheep, wolves, serpents, dove].

The Master’s Vineyard

While I was not aware of my purpose in the world as a lost soul, The Master offered me an alternative lifestyle, He summoned me to learn how to lose my identity in an effort to learn how to become His disciple. Unbeknown to me, this matter of being summoned is the very essence by which the Master offers Himself to all willing souls. This is key in that He now, uses someone like me, as His ambassadors in providing other lost souls, the opportunity to submit to the exercised authority of His [Lordship over all humanity] as The Messiah. This very act of willful submission is an on-going requirement throughout my life in this present age.

As I willingly submitted to the Lordship of The Master, He gave/give me entrance into the spiritual kingdom, it’s covenants and its laws. It is He who now divinely governs on earth through those whom He continues to summon until His return once all of the recorded prophecies have been completed. His Lordship over my personal soul and His sovereign mastery over all creation redefine the purpose of my life while here on earth.  I am a laborer of the Master in His vineyard!

In this reconstitution of identity and purpose that came about in submission to the Lordship of Messiah in my life, I am His servant sent forth by His spirit to proclaim His lordship over all of the affairs on the earth, whether or not it appears that way or not. His lordship is not to be proven by my strength, wisdom and or abilities, they are to be performed by God in His efforts to undo the evil and consequences that sin has on all of His creation.

One of the marks of His Kingdom prevailing within the evil godless culture is the manner in which His disciples are commanded to proclaim His shalom [peace] in a hostile and wicked age. Please consider the holistic dimension of the peace that The Master gives that this world can’t!

  • Peace with God through Messiah and all of His eternal covenants, all of which require a relationship with Him. Sin prior to Messiah only separated all souls from God.
  • Abiding spiritual welfare while here on earth, which is depicted in health and prosperity in all that God has promised to us via His promises and covenants.
  • Safety, soundness in the wholeness of our soul-care.
  • Spirit of contentment and tranquility in all matters, conditions, and circumstances.
  • Wholesome fellowship and relationships with others.

Standing One’s Ground

As a disciple, The Master commands that when and if those who I encounter reject the proclamation of His peace, I am to move on [shake the dust from one’s feet]. For we are His sheep in that when He commissions a disciple, He warns us that there will be troubles, affliction, persecutions, and suffering for His Namesake.

The Master thus compares His disciples [followers] as sheep in respect of describing the meek and humble nature of their spirit. As sheep, each disciple of Messiah is depicted as harmless and inoffensive in their relational encounters with all people. Perhaps the most difficult characteristic of that of a sheep that runs completely runs against our current culture is how sheep are weak and in need of protection. Nevertheless, God sends me out unarmed and defenseless into the world system of oppressors and those who willfully inflict pain and hardship on me. These depicted by The Master are identified as wolves in their ill-treatment of disciples.

What is more interesting about the intended formation of the character of Messiah in the life of a disciple is that God has given each servant of The Master, their own cross to bear for the duration of their labor in The Master’s Vineyard. The Word states that I am to carry my own cross, in a word, I am to continue to be put to death, in order to faithfully represent The Master who called me into His Vineyard. Everything in His creation that is against His will, will become my own persecution.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

The Master’s Advice

“Be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Now the wisdom of the one and the harmlessness of the other are very desirable to be combined in the formation of the character of Christ in the life of His disciple.

The Master uses a figure of speech that compares two unlike things [serpent and dove] in His effort to instruct His disciples in how they are to stand their ground in the world while representing Him in ministry. The following list is some general principles/techniques that The Master grants to any disciple in expanding the Kingdom work in a hostile world.


  •  Be very sharp-sighted
  • Use cunning, clever, and one’s intelligence
  • Obtain the faculty of executing expertly what one’s planning or devise in an effort at maintaining protection and preservation throughout one’s service.

I am encouraged by the Master to be like the serpent when it is to my best interest to protect myself from the insults and rage from people, systems, while not exposing myself to unnecessary dangers. As His disciple, within me lies the ability to give no just occasion of offense, or to provoke them to use ill will toward me, thus avoiding all snares and traps laid by the enemy.


  • Be on the side of the innocence of wrongdoing.
  • Do no harm.
  • Avoid and be free from all wicked cunning and crafty situations.
  • Do not harbor malice, wrath nor seek revenge.
  • Seek after meekness while maintaining a humble disposition.

As a dove, the Master is encouraging me to lead an inoffensive lifestyle in the spiritual calling of my new life of service in The Kingdom work. I am to serve Him blamelessly as a gentle person.

In closing, Matthew 10:16 is how The Master taught us how to optimize our service as ministers of the Gospel in this current age. His disciples are going to have the best success at representing Messiah by having a healthy balance between the good qualities of the dove and the serpent. We are to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of. We also must be sharply aware of the evil tactics of the enemy while taking the high moral road.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12

Grace and Peace

Alonzo Thornton