You know, those that walk in God’s way, He will protect them.
We are blessed. God is watching over me and will protect me.
Those that obey God will be protected by God.
I hear these types of statements made pretty routinely amongst Christians. Sometimes I speak up, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it comes up later in conversations with other people. Usually my response is something along the lines of:
I don’t believe that for one second.
People are usually pretty shocked when I say that, but I think that I have good reason to say it. In our western Christianity, we have frequently conflated our prosperity with the blessing from God. Some think that we have received God’s blessing because it is a “Christian society” or because we were founded on Biblical principles. And there are parts of that that I can’t argue with.
We have, in general, become used to a relatively peaceful society, especially in America, based on our military might, as it is a rare occurrence that we would be attacked, or that someone would even want to attack us for fear that our military would be able to drive them into the ground immediately.
So I think that our current physical realities have a way of seeping into our theology making us believe that we will be protected by God in our physical world if we are generally aligned with God’s will spiritually.
But I think that the Bible says exactly the opposite.
This morning, we are reading Matthew 10 where Jesus sent out his 12 disciples to announce and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He said this:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16
So, let’s look at what Jesus is saying here:
First, Jesus is sending them. He has an idea in mind for what he wants them to do and he is sending them to do it. It is a proactive understanding of a mission for them to complete.
Next: What else does Jesus know? He knows that he is sending them amongst wolves. These are wolves that are going to tear them apart. In the synagogues. At a governmental level. Within families, and amongst friends. In each of these places – in short, at every turn, Jesus is sending them amongst the wolves. He already understands this, even before sending them.
And now, he is sending them as sheep. These are sheep that are defenseless. In fact, he tells them:
Don’t take money.
Look for someone’s house to stay in.
When you are arrested (not if), don’t worry about what you will say. The Holy Spirit will speak for you.
But don’t worry about men. They can kill you, but you shouldn’t concern yourselves with those who can kill your physical body. Instead, concern yourselves with He who can through your spirit into Hell.
OK, now, this is the same Jesus that people are talking about when they say that, if they are a Christian, God will protect them. And they are talking about the physical world!
I think that it is a gross misunderstanding, or ignorance, of the true realities of what Jesus is intending to do with those that are his believers. And furthermore, an incredible injustice to those who will follow after us who speak about protection, or possibly wealth and prosperity.
From my perspective, if we are truly telling people what it means to follow Christ, we should help them to understand that it is not intended to be easy, full of physical blessing and protection from God. In fact, I see the opposite here. I see Jesus intentionally sending his disciples into harm’s way for the purpose of announcing the Kingdom of God and demonstrating it other people. I think that this is the reality that we see with the disciples and the same reality that we see in the rest of the scriptures with Paul and those that worked with him as well. Any other understanding of what is likely to happen is probably based on some other understanding of who we are in Christ or doing something other than what he has commanded us to do.
Connected to this verse today, I wanted to also share this video. It is a 2 hour film, but it is worth the time. It is also called Sheep Among Wolves and regards discipleship and church planting work happening in Iran by Iranians. May God use these people for His glory!