Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
1 Corinthians 14:20 (NASB)
Do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
I enjoyed a family celebration recently at which there were a number of children – none of whom we see regularly. Some were quick to engage and offer a fun-loving high-five. Other children were simply in their own world – not really aware of me. One little tike, however, did not want anything to do with me. To be honest, I think I scared him when we initially met; not intentionally mind you, but I did seem to scare him. Try as I might, I could not get him to warm up to me. I had nothing but good intentions toward him, but he remained far away and afraid…this little 11 month old guy.
Children, in their thinking, can be trapped by false fears, distracted in their own world, oblivious to real dangers, or too easily enticed with simple treasures. Jesus holds up little children as those whom we are to emulate (cf. Matthew 18:3), saying that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as those who are like little children. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are to be gullible, self-absorbed, or oblivious to the dangers of Satan’s schemes. We are to be infants in regard to evil, but mature in our understanding – especially in regard to Satan’s ploys.
If we are to be infants in regard to evil, but mature in our thinking, we will not need to know good and evil for ourselves. That was the grave mistake of Adam and Eve. We must be aware of the devil’s schemes. We will look behind the outward appearances and enticements the world offers, knowing that every temptation looks good outwardly, but hides a dangerous poison, the sharp barbed hook of enslavement.
Jesus put it this way: we are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The analogies are certainly intentional: aware of the wiles and deceit of the serpent Satan, but innocent by the power of the Holy Spirit (embodied as a dove at Jesus’ baptism). We all have fallen short of this calling one way or another. That makes God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ so much more precious. But it also helps us to embrace to path of mature thinking, seeking to enjoy the steps of God’s promises, goodness, grace, and truth.