Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. – Proverbs 27:6
I’ve heard this verse quoted countless times, usually in the context of being bold or loving someone enough to say the hard things that they need to hear. There is definitely a need for that. Too often in our culture there is this idea that if you disagree or oppose someones choices your are unloving, bigoted, and judgmental. Is that the case though? Should we warn people if their lifestyle is hurting them?
Some things to consider:
Is the “wound” you will cause less wounding than had it not been shared?
Many times we just like to argue and split hairs. The “correction” could cause more harm than had it been left alone. In other words it wants an issue worth having contention over. Ask the question “Is it worth it?” Think about the person who has a drug problem. No addict wants to be told they have a problem. They like to feel like they are in control. To warn them may cause them to hate you, but the alternative could be life threatening. A faithful friend loves them enough to oppose them. It may even save their life though it could cost you the friendship. “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Proverbs 18:17). This is especially true when we consider sharing the gospel with others. To bring someone to a place of repentance (a change of mind) and faith, they must realize that their thinking is wrong. No one came to Christ and saw Him as their Saviour without first realizing they need saving. So a faithful friend endeavors to help them see their condition and need for a Saviour. They may reject and see you as a judgmental religious zealot, but think of the alternative. You keep silent to maintain a cordial friendship, and they die in their sins and face an eternity of torment. A friend shares because to keep silent is far more wounding.
How should we wound?
Some people take truth and cary it around like a sledge hammer. Ready to pound anyone who might need it. Often these are called “Bible thumpers:” always looking for someone to metaphorically thump with their Bible. This does not help the cause of Christ, neither is it the way God gently leads us along. Ephesians 4:15 admonishes us to “…speak the truth in love…” Again in Colossians 4:6 we are told, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Wounds are necessary, but it is a mature, disciplined Christians that is able to wound with grace. Seek to wound in such a gracious way that the hearer can hardly tell you have wounded them. The goal is not wounding, but helpful correction.
A wound is better than a kiss
Think about the contrast in this verse. “… the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A kiss in this verse carries the idea of approval and praise. Today people want to be praised for their sinful choices. The mantra is “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok!” Nobody say anything negative, everything is great and wonderful. But is it? Are we all good? Romans 3:12 expresses a truth that is reiterated all thought scripture, “… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” How does someone come to the place of that realization? Romans 10:14 poses the question, “… how shall they hear without a preacher?” In other words, something must be proclaimed in order to be received and processed. If a wound is a good thing, it expresses concern from the wounder because they want their friend to do right. To approve and kiss, or praise them, though it seems friendly, is actually enmity. By being silent, we became a deceitful enemy of that person.
Be a friend
Often the focus in this verse is that the wounding itself proves I am a friend. But there verse doesn’t say, “faithful are wounds to become a friend,” but rather the implication is a person is a friend before they ever wound. This is the part that has stood out to me in recent days. What is your status in their life? As I consider the many Christians that I am privileged to pastor, I realize that I am not viewed the same by each. There are some in the congregation who are in desperate need of some biblical, godly correction. Yet I do not feel they will receive it at this point. I am not viewed as a close friend yet. “Reprove not a scorner, let he hate thee…” (Proverbs 9:8a). So I must work on those relationships until they will hear. There are others who know I love them. We’ve spent time together and they know my heart is for them. They will hear. I’ve even had some men in our church say to me, “Pastor, if there is anything of concern that you ever see in my life, please tell me.” What a blessing. Here’s a wise man in that same verse in Proverbs 9:8, “… rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” The reality is, no matter how wise the person, or how much they desire growth, if you have not earned that place in their life, they will not hear the rebuke. The love and respect has not been earned. So be cautious.
In the Christian life, we are privileged to help others. To bear others burdens (Galatians 2), to serve others (Galatians 5:13), to even correct and rebuke. We must not take it lightly nor with the wrong heart. We mist be both “… wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Be a friend, and wound wisely.