That’s what Christ wants us to be, if we are to be his faithful disciples. It’s not easy, of course. But we have his assurance that as long as we are with him, we truly can be as shrewd, cunning and clever as serpents and at the same time, simple and innocent as doves.
This is the proper combination of qualities that is meant for us. That’s what Christ wants us to be. Simple but not naïve. In fact, he wants us to be very clever and shrewd. “Be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves,” he said. (Mt 10,16)
He addressed these words first to his apostles in the context of their very tricky mission in the world where they would be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Try to imagine that scene of a sheep in the midst of wolves and we cannot help but think there’s no way a sheep has any chance of survival.
But these words are actually meant also for all of us who want to follow Christ consistently. We also live in a very complicated world where the spiritual and supernatural values seem to be systematically put out of place. It indeed would appear impossible for us to be consistent with Christ while in this world of ours. We definitely would feel helpless.
But these two qualities simply have to be cultivated, as commanded by Christ. But how? I believe the answer can only be when we don’t lose sight of the example of Christ himself. More importantly, the only possibility is when we identify ourselves fully with him.
Without losing our simplicity, we have to develop a certain kind of shrewdness, a holy shrewdness which is actually an urgent necessity these days precisely because our environment is fast becoming inhabited by human wolves and hissing snakes full of tricks and deceit and ready to strike and to turn our country into a Godless one.
We need to realize that this holy shrewdness and simplicity always go together. We can only be shrewd and clever like snakes, capable of being open, tolerant and versatile to any kind of worldly complicated situations today if we remain humble and simple like doves. A humility and a simplicity that would not lead us to be shrewd and clever like serpents would not be true humility and simplicity. They would simply be the fake ones, or forms of naivete.
It is genuine humility and simplicity that would enable us to face the complexities of our life because these are the virtues that liken and identify us with Christ. And with Christ, we can manage to tackle anything.
Remember that we are told that with God nothing is impossible. In other words, only with these virtues can we be “capax Dei,” capable of being like God, sharing his power and wisdom. With God, we can handle anything.
Perhaps that is the reason why Christ said: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Mt 11,29-30)
Let’s not be daunted by this undeniably difficult combination of qualities we all ought to have. There’s God’s grace to help us. As long as we also do our part, things would just jell.*