Howard Thurman was raised by his grandmother in Florida. His grandmother was a former slave and was very poor and so Thurman grew up in poverty. He became a pastor and was the pastor of a church in San Francisco called the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples for many years. Thurman was initially educated at Morehouse, Columbia, and at Rochester Seminary. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as other prominent civil rights movement leaders was greatly influenced by Thurman because of his commitment to non-violence. This sermon entitled "What Shall I Do with My Life?" which is based on Matthew 4:1-11 was given many times; "this particular version was preached to a student audience in 1939" (385).
One of the topics of this sermon is the temptation of Jesus and Thurman makes several points about his third temptation particularly. One of Thurman's first points is "the tempter strikes at the center of Jesus' dominant passion, to bring society under the acknowledged judgment of God and thereby insure its purification" (387). Thurman uses this point to illustrate that Jesus, as he lived, became the "embodiment of this great desire" (387) and this is why the tempter tried to tempt Jesus with the kingdoms of the world. The tempter tried to get Jesus to believe that the kingdoms were not Jesus' and that only the tempter could give them to him. The tempter also tries to make Jesus see that the relationships between men and women were created by him and not by Jesus. This is why Jesus warned his disciples with two statements, "Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. You must be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves" (387-388) and, "Rejoice when men persecute you for my sake, for it means that you are making inroads on territory that is foreign to the will of God" (388).
Thurman gives some insights into the role of Christianity in the public square also. From the reading I think Thurman is saying that when involved in the public square, we will come across many different people, some bad (wolves) and some good (lambs). Because of this, it is important to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." This means that even though we may not agree or get along with the opposition, we have to learn to work alongside each other without compromising our own thoughts and beliefs (being wise). As we do this, we still will encounter persecution, but this means that we are making an impression on that/those person(s).Thurman means that by doing this we are shedding some of God's love on others and are being upright Christians.