It is amazing how quickly we can adapt to any long term situation we find ourselves in. In fact, it is amazing how quickly we can accept the abnormal as normal if that is the environment we we are exposed to for a period of time. Children who are raised in a one parent family will consider that normal. Children who are raised by a same sex couple will find that normal. Children who are raised by an abusive parent will find that normal. I could go on to include dirty homes, non-working parents and a whole list of abnormal situations. The point is that most of us will accept the situation we are in as normal until we are introduced to something that is truly normal.
Most people, before meeting Jesus, did not realize just how out of sorts they were with God. Most of our neighbours consider themselves to be good people living a good life. It is not until they are introduced to Jesus and are convicted by the Holy Spirit that they are given a new standard of normal. However, we do not need to turn to our neighbours to see this effect in action. Many of us, even after having received Jesus, still consider the world to be normal. We have grown up in it. It is what we are use to. It is our environment which we accept with very little questioning. Of course there is the major stuff that not even the world accepts such as rape, murder, violence and tax evasion but then there is all the other stuff which has become unnoticed.
The point I am making is that we can't afford to be stupid as Christians. We need to be aware of the hostile environment in which we live. I am not referring to the people but the forces behind the people. We need to understand that there is little that should be considered innocent because everything has been touched and distorted by the enemy. It is simply that we are use to and do not know any better. As Jesus was sending out his twelve he told them this:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
How quickly we forget that in and of ourselves we are totally defenseless in a world that loves to rape and pillage people, their lives and their families. Sheep have no defenses and the wolf is a born killer. Wolves are not evil, they only act according to their nature. People in the world are only acting according to their nature but their nature is to destroy sheep. How quickly we can forget the hostility of this place simply because we have been raised in it. We don't even see the wolves because we have grown up thinking they are sheep.
Jesus gave the instructions that we are to be shrewd as snakes. There is a problem here for most believers because of the double negative image. Most of us hear the word shrewd and we think of a businessman who is out to make a buck using whatever means he can. Add to that the image of a snake, which most people do not like, and we end up with confusion. However, the word shrewd means to be sharp in practical matters. It means to possess keen perception, to be intelligent, discerning. Let's grab the last word, discerning. Jesus is telling us to have eyes that see and a mind that understands what is going on around us. Be aware so that we can avoid trouble where possible, avoid traps of the enemy, and not to fall in with the wrong crowd.
At the same time Jesus tells us to be innocent, not to get caught up in the things and attitudes of this world. Some people think we can use the methods and the attitudes of this world to accomplish the goals of the Father. Jesus faced these same temptations and walked away untouched by the enemy, innocent of wrong doing. We forget that we must operate within the righteousness of our Father, not relying on the methods that we have grown up with. It can be a hard thing to switch our mindset, perspective and methods when that is all we have known but that is why Jesus is making it clear here that there has to be a difference.
If we leave the house messy enough for long enough, everyone will stop seeing the dirt and the clutter. We may have stopped seeing the dirt and clutter of this world. We actually think that the wolves are simply a strange breed of sheep. We need to listen to Jesus, become shrewd as we become sensitive to the Holy Spirit and capture the innocence that we need to have as a child of the Father. It really comes down to being aware and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Stop fooling yourself, understand what we are up against and let's get to work.