Good Wounds from the Best Friend
“A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise…Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 15:12; 27:5-6)
Some of us live among people who would flatter us and are very polite, avoiding conflict and debates because of their unpleasant nature. Others are surrounded by those who are direct, truthful, and sometimes inappropriately critical, who love to listen to talk radio and political commentary. When traveling in some parts of the world, you may have observed that people don’t speak to each other at all unless they already are acquainted. Then, in other places, especially Africa, the Southern U.S., and Texas, people are very open and friendly. However, our Bible passage today is not about how we treat strangers but how we treat our friends, and how they respond to us. Those who don’t like to hear the truth will not befriend someone who speaks it, even to his or her benefit; they are more likely to go to those who will tell them what they want to hear. But friends who love each other deeply will share what is helpful, even when it is likely to wound, knowing that it will lead their friend to greater spiritual growth and godliness. Recently I participated in a Bible study with some other women from church on envy. There were only a few of us, and I surmise that is because of the topic. Who wants to study the sin of envy for nine weeks? We did! Oh, how I appreciate opportunities like that where we could openly confront our ungodly tendencies for our collective benefit.
“Every proverb that commands and commends wise and righteous living effectively expounds Jesus’ life on earth. For example, when Jesus rebuked Peter for his spiritual insensitivity and experienced Judas’s betrayal, He was experiencing a painful exposition of this proverb.” (1) It is crucial that we see the fulfillment of biblical instruction in Jesus Christ. He alone is the One who accomplishes the transformation of our hearts to react with love and sensitivity to others through his imputation of righteousness in our regeneration. However, we are not him, although we do have an example in Paul who rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11-14, but it is extremely rare or appropriate for us to openly and directly rebuke anyone for spiritual weakness. “[Open rebuke] is to be understood, not of rebuke publicly given; even for rebuke among friends should be given privately, according to our Lord’s direction, Matthew 18:15; but it signifies reproof given faithfully and plainly, with openness of heart, and without mincing the matter, and palliating the offence.” (2) It is more likely that we need to apply the latter part of 27:6, so that we are not the enemy, offering fake kisses and flattery to our friends’ detriment.
And yet it is always appropriate to seek God’s reproof through biblical texts and Bible studies. (2 Timothy 3:16) When we engage with others in the intentional examination of our hearts under the authority of Scripture, God will provide divine correction in proportion to our desire for growth. Are you studying and seeking God’s Word today, and every day that leads to biblical convictions? Will you give Christ the gift this Christmas of growing in holiness and fruit? God’s wounds are the healing sort and unite us with Jesus Christ, reminding us of him; “…with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
(1) Murray, David, “Jesus on Every Page,” page 177, Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition, 2013.
(2) Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 27:6 https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/