That Jesus is our savior is good news! That Jesus is our Lord and God is welcome news. That Jesus modeled a sinless life is great news. Yet that Jesus’ life was itself a prophetic act – a model for all who come after Him – is actual new information to most. Often, hardly welcome news at all. But so it is; we are to live our lives as He lived His. A life of putting God the Father’s will and purpose far before our own. A life of complete and total daily submission to God. A life of full obedience to His Word, and that in the fullest expression of the term (far from legalism). A life of daily dependence upon Him. A life of daily listening to His Voice. A life of prayer, and a life prepared for suffering for the sake of the other, even at the greatest of costs. 1John puts it this way, “The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.”
In living like that, Jesus also modeled and taught internal keys to doing so successfully. Some of those are (like the beatitudes) are well known. Others are less so:
“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.”
Jesus’ point here is that we should be προσέχω (prosechō), meaning ‘paying attention’, ‘be concerned about’, ‘to be alert for’. He is not saying that paranoia is a godly trait. Paranoia is an unhealthy suspicion that others are out to hurt us. It is true that some are, and the rest of the verse plainly tells us so. But those who constantly suspect others are planning their hurt find themselves living a stunted life devoid of joy. Jesus is not telling us to live like that. Rather, He is saying we must keep space for thought before responding to those we encounter. We simply do not know the motives of others, the spiritual forces behind their words or actions, or where those words and actions will take us.
A modest level of internal guardedness is therefore actually most wise. It gives us room to think about what God is doing in the midst of our encounters with others. No doubt that everyone He sends us to or sends to us is someone who needs to see Christ in us. But some need to see Christ in us as an affirmation, and some need to see Christ in us as a testimony. How best to respond is not something we should do without thought. It is that space for thought that Jesus is speaking about. It is the or internal guard that allows us to ask Him for guidance before we respond, and to hear His Voice in so responding.
Taken in the context of what Jesus just said about being as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves, we hear Him telling us to be alert SO THAT we can be shrewd in our dealings with the called, and innocent in our dealings with the wicked. Being on guard will not avoid persecution. But it will ensure that in all our dealings, we accurately represent Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
The very worst side of the world will be turned towards you when you have been nearest to the eternal throne. Pirates look out for loaded vessels.Charles Spurgeon
Only the Lord can recognize the intentions of others with accuracy all the time. We must therefore lean into the Spirit’s guidance.