“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
What do you say to your friend who leans in, and whispers: “You have a piece of spinach in your teeth”? I suppose it depends on how long they waited to tell you. Usually, you tell her, “Thanks!” She was willing to bring you the bad news. She was willing to risk looking shallow and critical-spirited, in order to privately say something that everyone wishes wasn’t the case. Granted, some of her candor may have stemmed from being grossed out by watching you talk. But she took the plunge to bring you uncomfortable news…why? Because she’s your friend. An enemy would have no problem getting some laughs out of you making a fool of yourself.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. We say “don’t shoot the messenger,” because we know that oftentimes, the messenger goes down in the return fire. When it comes to confronting someone with a mistake, or even passing along a disheartening development, we know that the best way to look out for our own skins is to remain silent. That is why it takes a faithful friend to bring pain that he knows will, in the long term, turn to our benefit.
This proverb reveals God’s character, and what we can expect from Him. There is no one who will prove a better friend to you than Jesus. If that is the case, we should expect to hear some hard things from Jesus. We should expect him to wound us, to point out things that we would rather ignore, to not simply let something slip by because he doesn’t want to deal with the blowback.
That is why caricatures of Jesus that water down his confrontational side are shallow and flimsy. If you choose to believe in a Jesus who is perpetually affirming, who is the consummate “nice guy”, then your potentially most fulfilling relationship is simply a comfortable acquaintance. You’ve got a barista Jesus. If, on the other hand, you are willing to open yourself to the depth of friendship Jesus desires, then you have someone who will wound more deeply than anyone else, and yet do so more gently than anyone else.
It is important, in parsing this proverb, that we understand that it is not the act of wounding you that qualifies somebody as your friend; rather it is the quality of being your friend that enables someone to wound you in a good way. As you seek to be this sort of friend to another person, don’t start by looking for some problem you can point out. Start by counting your friend’s interests above your own (Phil 2:3). It doesn’t take us long to notice other people’s faults. You won’t have to work at that. You will have to work to channel Jesus’ love. He has the boldness to point out sin, and the gracious love to die for those sins.