“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.
“Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.
It’s so interesting to me as I read these words with fresh eyes in The Message. They are familiar and yet shocking at the same time. The development of the ideas here by Peterson are something that I think Western Christianity needs to hear.
As Jesus sends out the Twelve (for this is the context of this passage) he is not going to sugar coat the situation. Jesus is not naïve. He tells them point blank that they are walking into a dangerous world. It can be scary and it can be hard to live life as as follower of Jesus. There is no deceit on Jesus’ lips.
So, what does he challenge the Twelve with? He challenges them to go and to be wise. He argues that they should not draw much attention to themselves but simply go and represent Jesus in the neighborhood. Remember, just before this he tells them to go and be present in the neighborhood. Now he tells them not to be naïve for as they go about teaching the way of Jesus they will face some hard things in a hard world. But, in a sense he is saying, “Don’t bring it on yourselves. Be present, be authentic, be faithful, but don’t be seeking the spotlight and bringing attention to yourself.”
When we were in campus ministry one of the things that we were committed to doing early on was “making Jesus an issue on campus.” We did all kinds of things to try and create a stir around the person and work of Jesus. In some ways I think that was OK. But, if I’m honest it always felt off. We would expend all kinds of energy and time to create a “buzz” but the pay off was primarily burnt out volunteers and staff. At some point we made the conscious decision to no longer “create a buzz” but to simply focus our energy and attention on helping one another grow in our faith. This translated into people trusting Christ and our ministry growing. People shared their faith with those in their community not as a result of compulsion but as a result of identity formation. They began displaying the fruit of the Spirit in their neighborhood and it was beautiful and attractive.
I think this is what Jesus is getting at here in his instructions to the Twelve. Go, be present and live authentic lives of faith. Living an authentic life of faith necessarily includes talking about your faith in Jesus. But, it ceases to be a canned elevator pitch and becomes something deeper.
If you’re a follower of The Way then show up today in peace, authenticity, and grace.