-Matt. 10:16 (NLT)
It is ironic or a paradox that Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves. Normally, sheep are kept away from wolves. But Jesus' words here, say that we, as his messengers and missionaries, will be seemingly defenseless.
But, the good shepherd goes with us (John 10:12-15). The point Jesus makes here, is that we have no self defense, in our own power. We are completely reliant on our shepherd.
We are not force of power, in and of ourselves. We have a powerful message. We have a powerful King. The King can even do powerful things through us. But we are not a power. We are defenseless, like sheep, utterly dependent on our shepherd.
But, we are to have a special way of functioning, in our vulnerability. We are to be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves. This is a paradox.
Snakes are careful. Shrewd, prudent, sensible, or crafty. All this implies the wisdom in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20). Being shrewd, means that we are not naive nor simpletons.
Harmless as doves, means innocent, unmixed, pure, or transparent. But the dove aspect, means that we are pure in our lack of guile and in our honesty. We need, as Donald Hagner wrote, "practical discernment and at the same time the sort of guilelessness that characterized Jesus." (1)