Often, we see true friendship as being with those who support us and who we can rely on for encouragement. But the wisdom we find in Scripture takes a different view and advises that the wounds of a friend can be trusted. At first glance, this is a slightly troubling verse. Our immediate reaction is surely those who are our closest friends are not going to say or do anything to hurt or wound us? Let’s have a closer look at this Scripture to unpack the meaning of this phrase.
What does the Bible say about the wounds of a friend?
In the wisdom Scriptures, we find this proverb a verse that speaks of discernment. It is a verse that at first is challenging to accept because sometimes we can find truth hard to receive. We gravitate to friendships with people who are just like us, those with whom we have something in common. Even in the church family, we find the youth, singles groups, mums and tots, young at heart, or other groups for seniors. These are our peers, those who understand us! It is there with our friends that we expect to find affirmation and support.
What does Proverbs 27:6 say?
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” NIV
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” NKJV
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ESV
“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” HCSB
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda].” Amplified
Faithful are the wounds of a friend
There can be many people that we are friendly with and even have daily contact with. Some people that we meet are easy to relate to and we can enjoy their company. Some friendships are just for a season with a shared experience, a time, maybe, of working together. Then if one of you moves on, and the common interest is lost, the friendship runs its course – and that is okay! But then there are close friends….
I don’t know about you, but I feel blessed to have a few true friends. These are the friendships that have formed over the years. We have been there for each other and walked through some of the highs and lows of life together. The ones that I can rely on for support and encouragement, but I also know that I can trust their godly advice.
What does faithful are the wounds of a friend mean?
The first half of the proverb highlights that a true friend will sometimes speak words that are uncomfortable or even painful to hear. But when they are rooted in love the wounds of a friend can be trusted. A faithful friend will speak with the right motive, love, and concern for our best interest.
The second half of the verse is a warning that sometimes those who affirm our every word, may have a hidden agenda. Sadly, just because someone flatters our views and opinions does not necessarily mean that they are a true friend.
The Gift of Encouragement
The gift of encouragement or exhortation is listed amongst the spiritual gifts in Romans chapter twelve. When I used to teach the church youth and talk about spiritual gifts, I would say that the gift of encouragement is a good place to start. I would play a game with them, where I would ask them to think of encouraging or kind words about someone else in the group. Then they had to write the words on a post-it and stick the note to the back of the person’s chair. This was to encourage them to look at each other kindly and see the good in someone else. Of course, those are baby steps…
But true encouragement is more than just kind words. Sometimes words alone are not enough, we need practical help, and that is when we need our friends and our community around us.
Related Post: Barnabas – Is Encouragement More Than Kind Words?
The spiritual gift of encouragement, or exhortation, is more than simply kind words or actions. It is when what we do and say points someone else back to the Lord, drawing them closer to Him.
This is where we find out who our true friends are – those who will not always tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. Words that affirm our way of thinking soothe our spirit, but that is not always good for our eternal well-being. Sometimes there can be an ouch moment when what we hear is painful, but somewhere deep inside we know it is true.
I don’t know about you, but I have had those times when I’ve realized that my ‘great idea’ is not God’s best plan. The wounds of a friend, although painful at the time can be for our good and, if we listen, avoid a whole lot of heartache!
Related Post: El Roi – The God Who Sees Me
What does the Bible say about open rebuke?
This proverb is advising us to examine our response when we feel hurt if a true friend challenges our behavior. True and lasting encouragement is from those words that point us back to the Lord. It doesn’t matter how many other people approve of our behavior if it is not pleasing to God.
True friends are those who have earned the right to speak into our lives by their love and kindness which has been demonstrated over time. When we have that connection with someone and know that we can trust them to bring prayerful, godly, counsel.
If we feel prompted to speak and challenge a friend about their attitude or behavior, we should tread carefully and examine our own motive. Our intention should be to draw our friends closer to the Lord, and our delivery always needs to be with love. Remember the love of God may bring conviction and correction but never condemnation.
This is not something to do lightly. There is the risk that if the words are not received, in the loving spirit that they are given, the friendship could be damaged or lost.
Paul Openly Rebuked Peter
The early church grew and developed as it began to reach out to Gentiles as well as to Jews. This brought challenges to the Jewish Christians. We find an account, in Galatians chapter two, of where Paul found it necessary to openly rebuke Peter.
It seems that Peter had yielded to pressure, he had given way and changed his behavior to please other people. Paul challenged him about it and Peter accepted the rebuke. In his heart Peter knew that Paul was correct in what he was saying. The open rebuke was necessary because it affected a foundational truth of the Christian faith.
Paul did what was required and Peter responded in the right way. In this instance, the truth was more important than a moment of embarrassment or hurt feelings. Later in Peter’s letters, we find him referring to Paul with warmth and affection, he respected Paul and his teaching. The rebuke did not damage their mutual respect or their friendship.
Can the wounds of a friend ever be encouragement?
The wounds of a friend, although painful, can be trusted to draw us closer to the Lord. Our faith can be strengthened when we are willing to receive godly counsel. We need wisdom as to whom we listen to – but God will freely give us that wisdom if we ask! And equally, we need to seek wisdom before we speak into anyone else’s situation with the intention of building up their faith.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens a friend.”Proverbs 27:17 CEB