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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 22 : Be Wise as Serpents | Day 152

Be Harmless as Doves!

In Scripture, the dove symbolizes three primary characteristics: peace (as a messenger of peace after the Flood; see Genesis 8:8-12), pure beauty (see Song of Solomon 1:15), and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32).

The meaning of the word harmless, which Jesus uses in this command, is significant. It is the Greek word akeraios. The letter a means "without," and kerao means "to mix." Therefore, to be harmless means to be "without any mixture of deceit." Paul uses this word in his exhortation to the early Church: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless (akeraios), the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).

Paul uses the same word in Romans 16:19 in reference to personal purity and innocence regarding the knowledge of evil. “... I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple (akeraios) concerning evil.”

To be harmless as a dove is to be an innocent and undefiled messenger of the peace of the Gospel of Christ.

The dove has three distinct physical features spoken of in Scripture. Each one provides insight into the role of being a harmless messenger of God's peace and love.

  • Its eyes. Solomon writes, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes" (Song of Solomon 1:15). Eyes are the window to the soul. As we speak, people intently look into our eyes to see if our words match the message and condition of our soul. (See Matthew 6:22.)
  • Its voice. The sound made by a dove is pleasant and soothing. It also conveys a tone of sadness. “... I did mourn as a dove ...” (Isaiah 38:14). A messenger of peace should not provoke others with his words and should be sensitive to the emotional needs of others, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. (See Romans 12:15.)
  • Its wings. The wings of a dove are strong and have endurance. (See Psalm 55:6.)During World War I, Homing pigeons were used to carry important messages across battle lines. A faithful messenger must be committed to enduring whatever hardships are necessary to deliver his message.

The message of our lives speaks louder than the message of our lips.

As people observe our lives, will they find our actions to be consistent with the message we are proclaiming, or will they find reasons to discredit our testimony and reject the Lord's message of love and peace because of inconsistencies in our lives?

Let's take whatever steps are necessary to remove hypocrisy from our lives so that we can be effective ambassadors for the Lord.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard