Wise as Serpents

November 5, 2015 at 9:24 am

“If he is discovered, he will be executed.”

The car was winding through Spanish hillsides covered with olive trees as far as the eye could see. The words slipped from the mouth of my driver casually, as if he was talking about the weather or his plans for the weekend. Throughout our 90-minute drive from the airport to the retreat center, he shared with me the details of his ministry whereby he trains Christians in Muslim nations how to stay out of trouble with the government. His seminars typically cover the topics of interrogation, kidnapping, physical persecution, judicial trials as well as how to respond to arrest, imprisonment and long-term detainment. When I asked him where he had learned these things himself, he merely smirked. 

As my driver shared the details of his story, he revealed that he had once worked for a Muslim government for 15 years, serving as one of only four intelligence agents in the entire country. He knew how to coach secret believers because he once carried out the orders of his supervisors. Today, he uses his expertise in the service of a new Kingdom and he continues to receive help from those working from inside the intelligence community. One of his former colleagues is also a Christian and continues to work for the government, sharing details with my driver about newly implemented laws and policies, as well as the loopholes to exploit. It was this colleague in particular we were discussing when I asked what might happen if his loyalty to Jesus was exposed-

“If he is discovered, he will be executed.”

Our journey continued through beautiful mountain passes until we arrived at a training center nestled high atop a bluff surrounded by olive groves. When I stepped inside I was greeted by a roomful of Christian leaders from Sudan, Syria, Australia, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Most had converted from Islam to Christianity and many had been forced to flee their countries as a result. Some had lost their family. None of them regretted their decision.

Often when some speak of “counting the cost” of following Jesus in the West, there is a strong suggestion that the primary difficulty of discipleship lies in saying goodbye to our idols. And this is often true. There is a death of self that comes with a new allegiance that beckons us to bow our knee to a new King. But that surrender is as active as it sacrificial. With all of our emphasis on simply saying no to the passions of our flesh, there is a great need to remember that our call to follow Christ is also an invitation into a covenant by which we are enlisted by the King to take back what is rightfully his in the world.

The men and women I have had the honor of meeting this week are not content to simply make cosmetic changes to their former life. Coming to Christ for them did not mean a simple shift in some of their lifestyle choices. It was more than just a reevaluation of their values and priorities; how they might now spend their money, their weekends, or raise their children. For each of them, saying yes to Christ has meant attending funerals for their former identities and cutting the ropes that kept their boats attached to familiar shores.

But as my driver shared with me, it has also meant saying yes to a new mission of usurping the Kingdom of darkness and actively engaging in undermining the powers and principalities holding men and women captive to lies. My brothers and sisters this week have reminded me through their testimony that discipleship is not merely a matter of what you fight against, but what you are also fighting for. It is a surrendering of your past, as well as your future. It is a promise by which our lives become a constant response to the sacrifice of our King, whose ransom-paying crucifixion has freed us to use the gifts he has given to return his reign and rule to every square inch of our world.

As we live as wisely as serpents and innocently as doves, may our threat to the Kingdom of darkness be so great that it might be said of each of us as well, “If he is discovered, he will be executed.”