Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Better Is Open Rebuke
The Bible says it’s better to have open rebuke from a friend than a hidden love (Prov. 27:5), and also it is better to have a friend speak the truth, even if it hurts, than to have an enemy treat you with the appearance of love and smother you with flattery (Prov. 27:6). Recently, I made a mistake, one of many in my life, of course, and a friend of mine pointed out my mistake. I made a sweeping generalization. I was dead wrong, and I admitted it and apologized for it. Even so, I would rather hear that what I was doing was wrong than to go on believing I was right when, indeed, I wasn’t. My friend did me a favor by correcting me because I would rather be corrected or criticized for a wrong than to go on in my error without knowing I was in error. Yes, it was painful, but it was necessary. Your friends will tell you the truth, and it’s not always what you want to hear. Having said this, I believe it is better to do this in private so as to not humiliate someone unnecessarily. If the person is corrected in private, they are better for it. It really doesn’t do them any good if it’s done in public and, in fact, can do a lot more harm than good than if done in private.
Doing a Favor
We wouldn’t normally consider rebuking someone as doing them a favor or having someone correct us as doing us a favor, but that’s exactly what God considers it. The Proverbs frequently speak about doing someone a favor by rebuking them than if they were only complimenting or flattering them with empty words (Prov. 28:23). Solomon puts it well, that it’s much better to hear constructive criticism or receive correction from someone than to hear the praise of people that don’t know what they’re talking about (Ecl. 7:15). Even God Himself will rebuke us to humble us if we ever try to add to what His Word actually says (Prov. 30:6).
How Do We React?
I don’t always react in my mind very graciously when I am corrected. I am not above correction, though. I must remain humble and evaluate whether it’s true, and if it is, I must admit to that because God will resist me if I’m proud but only give me grace if I humble myself before Him and my friends (James 4:6). Jesus alone and, of course, God the Father are above reproach and have every right to rebuke us like Jesus did the devil and the demons (Matt. 17:18) and even the wind (Mark 4:39), but we should never even try to think about rebuking our Creator like Peter once did to Jesus when He suggested that He was not going to die (Matt. 16:22). Can you even imagine Peter rebuking Jesus and in the same sentence calling Him Lord?! If we react to criticism and correction gracefully, then others will feel they can point out when we are in error and do so safely, but if we react self-righteously, then we’ve likely lost a friend who can help us by telling us the truth.
A Closing Prayer
Father God, I know that I need correction so many times in my life, so please help me to accept it graciously and not in arrogance or in a self-righteous way because all of us make mistakes and our friends are doing us and me a favor when they point out my mistakes. I thank God for them and for Your forgiveness, and in Jesus’ name I pray.
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