Wise as Serpents, Really?
In our dealings with people outside the faith Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The Apostle Paul told us to honour all men and to love the brotherhood. There is a graduation of affinity here.
I came across an interesting illustration from the story of David in 2 Samuel 10:
1 In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, "I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me." So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David's men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite nobles said to Hanun their lord, "Do you think David is honoring your father by sending men to you to express sympathy? Hasn't David sent them to you to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?" 4 So Hanun seized David's men, shaved off half of each man's beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away.
5 When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, "Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back."
6 When the Ammonites realized that they had become a stench in David's nostrils, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maacah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob.
7 On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men.
The King of Ammon could not attribute grace to David's motives. He could not understand it. It was not in his nature. He was limited to strategizing as he thought he might have acted in a similar situation. David was stunned at the response.
How many times have we been wrongly accused of proceeding as the world might proceed, when that was nowhere near our intention. It would be wise to take on the eyes of a serpent briefly in order to anticipate the next development and to make the best possible application thereafter of gentleness. There must be a timeliness and an economy in the outreach.
It was said of Jesus that He knew what was in man. Look at the slander which He suffered! Yet look at the grace which He consistently dispensed.