Not too long after choosing the twelve disciples and made them the apostles, Jesus sent them out to a mini-evangelistic trip. Before they leave, the teacher gave them some special instructions on how to conduct themselves during the journey. Apostle Matthew recorded one unique teaching in his account. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." The second half of the Matthean texts is the unique part.
In this teaching, Jesus used the image of serpents in a way the Bible barely used to describe God's servants, for the animal was usually depicted as evil, cunning, and deadly. In Genesis 3, it was the serpent that deceived Eve into sin. Serpents were presented as the enemies of God's people throughout the entire Old Testament other than the bronze snake in Numbers 21:9. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would teach his followers to "be shrewd" (other versions rendered as wary or cunning) as serpents. But he did. So What's going on?
Some people seemed to believe that Christians should follow certain rules in everything. There's a particular way for personal evangelism if you want it to be effective, another for caring if you hope to make people stick with a group, rules for prayer if you expect God to listen, or even words to answer challenging questions that will win the debates. But Jesus had no set rules when facing tough questions. He freely and wisely incorporates various resources, be it a parable, an object, or the challenger's own words to respond to the challenges. Often time, his responses made those who question him speechless, even afraid to ask more questions so that they will not be further embarrassed or brought greater reputation to Jesus.
So Jesus is asking us to be wise as him. He doesn't want us to be limited by any certain ways when we are witnessing God. That's why he didn't give the disciple the Four Spiritual Laws, or a manual to run churches. If God gives each one of us the unique resources which only we can access, He expects us to use all of them to witness for Him and His salvation.
Share with your partner any way you can think of to be a witness for Christ that is not conventional. Pray for each other that by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can be wise and brave witnesses for Christ.