Updated: Feb 24, 2021
“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16
As Christians, we are—as a whole—known for being nice. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. Jesus told the crowd during the last supper that the world would know they are His disciplines if they loved one another (John 13:35). Kindness and compassion are hallmarks of those who love Jesus.
As a result, shouldn’t “being nice” be our top priority? After all, we are to love our neighbor, right?
Consider Jesus… contrary to popular opinion, He wasn’t always nice. If He was, those in power would not have tried to kill Him! Jesus continually challenged those who were—allegedly—in authority: He called out the church leaders as being “white-washed tombs” full of dead bones; He aggressively confronted temple vendors who were exploiting the poor and underprivileged; and He disregarded “virtue signalers” who opposed Him healing a paraplegic because of their antiquated traditions.
Personally, I think some in our culture have mistaken cowardice for kindness.
In the passage above Jesus instructs his followers to be “as shrewd as snakes”. He warned they would be betrayed, persecuted, and hunted down like animals. He told them to look out for those in authority who would try to kill them. Jesus trained and commissioned his early followers to be activists, not choir directors.
This begs the question… why were He and his followers so hated? Because they spoke the truth. “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” (Matthew 10:27). In a remarkable plot twist later in the same passage, Jesus boldly declares that they should not suppose that He came to earth to bring peace, but rather to bring a sword (verse 34). Say what? That doesn’t sound very nice.
Throughout history, God-fearing, Spirit-led men and women have challenged authority and refused to remain silent: Martin Luther and other reformers challenged the Church of England because they perverted Scripture; George Washington and our Founding Fathers rebelled against the British government since they enslaved the colonies; Rosa Parks and other Civil Rights leaders defied Jim Crow for the laws were unconstitutional.
Jesus, as well as many of His followers, understand that all power and authority belong to God, not to those who have a title and an office. Yes, we are to respect authority and do everything within our means to live at peace with those around us; however, we are also called to be counter cultural, or to go against the culture.
Blind submission to authority was never part of God’s playbook. Has your fear of being labeled “not nice” ever trumped your obligation to defend the truth? Remember this... only the Creator of the Universe and His Word—not pop culture—get to ultimately decide how “nice people” think and act.