Scripture Reading: Proverbs 27
Key Verse: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
How true is this verse? As I sit and reflect this morning on my reading, I am halted by this little verse. This short proverb has so much depth and truth within it that many if not all of us experience nearly every day. There are two primary truths I have drawn from this verse alone: an encouragement and a warning.
Firstly, it is important to notice the stark contrast between the two sections of this verse which comes with a bit of a surprise. In the first part of the verse, we see “wounds of a friend.” Typically, we do not associate wounds with our friends. Are we not all taught that our friends, particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ, are to constantly love us, pray for us, comfort us, console us, and be faithful to us? It seems rather farfetched to reason that a friend would cause wounds. My first inclination would be that he or she is not a very good friend, if even a friend at all, if he or she is causing wounds. I mean, wounds are painful! However, according to Scripture, the wounds of a friend are faithful. Faithful? Yes, this great unexpected contrast is very deep and true indeed. This allows us to see two things.
First, we must apply this wisdom as the one who is being wounded by our friend. How should we respond when a true brother in Christ is rebuking us? Have we not seen in Proverbs how it is wise to accept rebuke? A true brother in Christ will rebuke us when we need it. God uses those faithful Christ-followers around us to help shape and sharpen our faith in Him. We should gladly and joyfully receive the rebuke of a believer and not turn them away lest we be considered a fool. The “open rebuke” (Prov. 27:5) of a brother is meant to cut deep into our heart in order to possibly wake us up or shake us out of a spiritual rut. This in fact will be painful according to Scripture. In our experiences we can also be certain the rebuke from a brother is painful. It never feels pleasant to have someone “cut us down” and point out realities in our life that is not lining up with God’s desires and purposes. It cuts into our pride and forces us to examine ourselves which is painful. However, oh how faithful this brother is who lovingly rebukes his fellow believer in order to strengthen him or her and help renew a desire to more faithfully follow Christ. In the daily spiritual warfare that we are in, this is not only faithful, but necessary.
Next, we must apply this wisdom to the one who is rebuking. This short proverb leads me to the truth that faithful and loving rebuke is necessary in faith communities. We should not be afraid to rebuke a brother or sister in the way they may be living their life. If he or she is claiming Christ as Lord, yet is living as if the world is lord, we would be unloving to not rebuke. Fear of negative perception or response must flee our minds and hearts. We must be more concerned with our brother’s spiritual health. If we are to truly love like Jesus, we must, when necessary, lovingly rebuke like Jesus. It would be very unfaithful and unloving for us to allow a fellow believer to stray away from the path of righteousness that Christ has saved them to. While it is clear that it would be painful, loving rebuke is necessary. Do not practice “hidden love” in your faith family (Prov. 27:5). Faithfully rebuke a brother or sister when necessary in a loving, non-condescending manner.
Now, the second half of this verse gives a subtle warning to the danger of nonbelievers as well as believers. The danger is found in “kisses of an enemy.” The Bible says that they are profuse, meaning bountiful or plentiful. In other words, many are the kisses of an enemy. The NIV translates it as “an enemy multiplies kisses.” At first glance, this seems very promising. Why would I not want my enemies to kiss me or to be generous or kind to me? While it would of course take me by surprise, I would rather enjoy the plentiful kindness from my enemies. However, the root of this warning is that these are deceptive “kisses” that are to hide the inevitable hurt of my broken relationship with God.
Coming from a non-believer, these kisses indicate a misguiding soothing of sin. When a believer is caught up in sin, the nonbeliever will console and comfort by giving the impression that what they are doing is ok or “not that bad.” They will encourage, pat on the back, and lift up the sinful believer by telling them that they should be able to do whatever they want and they shouldn’t feel the way they do. This is a deceptive way to mask true conviction and contrition. A true believer will be sorrowful over sin, yet while being “kissed” by a non-believer, they will be deceived into seeing no problem with their sin and press on in it. While plentiful kisses from a nonbeliever feel friendly, warming, and kind, the reality is that they are truly deceptive lies from an enemy. Encouragement can be twisted into being a very dangerous thing when used by an enemy of God.
It is not merely nonbelievers who are guilty of this deceptive kind of love. Believers like you and I are guilty of it as well. When a fellow believer falls into sin and confides in you, what is our natural first response? We wrap our arms around them and embrace them by repeating the fact that Jesus loves them and that God holds no record of that sin because of the perfect replacement of His Son. While this is true, do we fully love them? We avoid any form of rebuke for we do not want to be “judgmental” or “hurt their feelings.” We say that is unloving. Scripture says this is true love and it is “faithful.” Love is not complete is there is no mutual accountability to the truth of Scripture. While we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we first love Christ and we submit to Him and His authority over everyone else. We must be careful not to console someone to the point that we become their enemy by profusely kissing them only to hide the truth and only to mask conviction and remove any contrition from their heart. Allow sin and a sinful lifestyle to be painful, because when it is, the true worth and need for Jesus is illuminated and will more fervently be grasped and desired. When a fellow believer is convinced they are pitiful and worthless, deserving only death; agree with them, “Yes, without Christ all of these things are true. Now, let’s get back on track.” I do qualify this by saying that loving rebuke is only truly faithful when it is followed up with joyful discipleship and encouragement for the individual to return to the Word.
Be a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ today by spending time with your fellow believers and when necessary, by the authority of Christ Himself, rebuke their sin and sinful lifestyle in order for them to return to faithful obedience to Jesus and His Word. Love one another in every sense of the word. Do not keep your love hidden by refusing to rebuke while hiding behind profuse kisses all the while being a deceiving enemy.
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.” – Psalm 141:5
“It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.” – Ecclesiastes 7:5