I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
Context is the stuff that surrounds. Often it remains below the surface and gets left unnoticed. But, in every situation, there is more going on than we think. When we walk into a room, we encounter a context. It doesn’t matter if we recognize or acknowledge its presence, but its there. Every time we strike up a conversation with another individual, context makes an appearance.
Sometimes context is imposed while other times it is created. Regardless of how it came to be, our willingness to value context determines whether connection and understanding take place, or whether frustration and confusion dominate. We can waste time going around and around in circles and not touch the deeper unaddressed issues. When we find ourselves repeatedly having the wrong conversations, the chances are good that context is being ignored.
Failing to uphold this value leaves us irrelevant. Our message gets lost. We mismanage our influence. We leave someone not feeling cared for or valued. Our opportunity for influence and impact gets squandered.
Valuing context requires one to pay attention. It involves being curious and proactive. Living out this principle entails more listening for understanding than speaking to be heard. To tell God’s story to others, we must first know their story and the context for which they live their lives.
In Matthew 10, Jesus uses the imagery of a dove and serpent to describe how believers should interact in this world. The stark contrast between the two animals speaks to the complex role we play in culture.
Doves are a symbol of purity, wholeness, and integrity. We are to carry with us the same likeness while being agents of peace. Rather than contributing to the problems, we move into the issues with our presence. We are to approach our relationships with pure heart and pure motives.
We’re not trying to prove a point, but trying to help people walk with God.
On the other hand, Jesus commands us to be shrewd as serpents. Snakes wait patiently for opportunities and then strike. They rarely miss. As believers, we must possess the boldness to step into opportunities while making sure that our words are full of grace. We must not shy away from sharing the reason for our hope. When our words are seasoned with salt, they awaken thought and a thirst for connection. We take His presence wherever we go.
In what relationships or situations are you failing to understand context? How is this affecting your connection points and the influence you have in this area or relationship?
Lord, help me to pay attention. Give me the eyes to notice the things taking place behind the scenes. Help me to value context and pursue understanding. Remind me that everyone has a story and is valuable in Your eyes. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.