So yesterday, I wrote about the notion of defending the faith versus living it, and that living the faith is defending it. But while living it involves the knowledge that God is there to lead and protect us, it doesn’t mean living naively.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
— Matthew 10:16
Recently, a court ruled against a Christian couple who had refused to rent their vacation property to a lesbian couple. The women claimed discrimination; the owners claimed religious freedom. Courts all the way up the judicial ladder sided with the women.
The whole thing apparently started when the women told the owners they would only be needing one bed. That led to the question about their sexuality (although it’s not unusual for two heterosexual women to share a bed), which led to the refusal to rent … and the lawsuit … and nearly 14 years of court battles.
Now, there are plenty of good-faith reasons why the couple would have said they only needed one bed: they could have meant that it wouldn’t be necessary to go to the trouble of making up a second bed or provide a second set of bedclothes. But Satan has a way of twisting a good-faith action into an “issue”, and the owners took the bait, apparently thinking they were defending their faith by refusing them.
Was that wise? How does that reflect on other Christians or on Jesus Christ, Himself?
Supposing the owners had let that one slide. What if they had welcomed them into the property and done everything they could to make them comfortable and at ease? What if they had prepared the unit and set out a Bible and maybe a copy of Our Daily Bread, subtly sending the message that their hosts were followers of Jesus Christ, who welcome any child of God without judgment?
No lawsuit. No ugly scenes. No muttering under the breath of , “Just like all those (expletive deleted) Christians.” And maybe two people, in whom has been planted a seed of the knowledge of God.
Let’s jam for a moment on Jesus’ words, “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”. Why do you suppose He would pick a serpent as the symbol for wisdom? Why not wise as owls or even border terriers?
Could it be because the serpent is the way Satan appeared to Adam and Eve and is the way he’s described in the Book of Revelation?
Is Jesus not telling us we need to be shrewd, aware and mindful of the ways we can be tempted or slip up? Remember that, in Christ, anything the devil does, we can do better: is Jesus not saying we need to out-smart Satan?
And what’s this “harmless as doves” thing? Doves are generally associated with peace and are regarded as sweet, unassuming things, but so are kittens, bunny-rabbits and butterflies: so why would Jesus tell us to be harmless as doves?
Is it not because the Holy Spirit took the form of a dove when Jesus was baptized? That dove might have seemed harmless, a thing of quiet beauty; but it represented the turning point in the war on Satan, and it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can win this fight in our own lives.
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.
To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Peter 5:8-11
Be sober, by assuming that other human beings are not setting you up for a fall. Be vigilant, by (a) being aware that Satan can take innocent or inadvertent situations and turn them into a trap; and (b) by responding to situations in a way that reflects well on Jesus and God. Resist the devil, but don’t strike back against the person who offends you (Matthew 5:39).
Remember that there was a time when you were unsaved, yourself; it’s not about getting Holy Brownie points for rejecting someone because you don’t agree with their religion, position or lifestyle: it’s all about God’s glory and dominion — the grace and love He showers on all who will receive it. And since you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, you are the means by which He reaches out to people to do that.
That, I believe, is how you defend the faith.