Faithful Are the Wounds of a Friend

We live in a world where friendship is often defined by our friends and followers on social networking sites. We often interact with others by posting holiday snaps and updates about our children’s accomplishments as well as sharing recipes and videos. But while these things can help us stay connected on some level, they are hardly the building blocks of a close relationship.

In many ways, our modern lifestyles work against friendship. Just about everyone is overbusy, overstretched and overscheduled. Between work, classes, household chores and family commitments, there isn’t a lot of time left to develop or nurture friendships.

If we were asked to define what good friendship is all about, we would probably list attributes like loyalty, kindness, trustworthiness, supportiveness, love, and openness. We may not be surprised to discover that these are the very qualities highlighted in the Scripture as the foundation for lasting friendships in the Truth.

True friends stay by our side not only to enjoy life together, but also to provide mutual support and motivation as we run side by side in that race God has set before us. Shared commitment to God’s way of life, together with a common desire to please and glorify Him, is the essence of true biblical companionship. Friends can be a wonderful source of encouragement and strength.

“Therefore encourage one another,”

wrote the apostle,

“and let each one help to strengthen his friend” (1 Thess 5:11, Weymouth).

In Proverbs chapter 27 the word “friend” occurs six times. This reflects the importance of the subject to the mind of the author. Indeed, the theme of friendship throughout Proverbs provides heart-warming exhortations in an age that is increasingly feeling disconnected from people round about them.

Friendship doesn’t necessarily come effortlessly in the Truth. Some of us are better at making friends than others.  But the benefits of cultivating good friends are immense. As the writer of Ecclesiastes put it:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Eccl 4:9-10).

Before we examine the theme of friends in Proverbs 27, let us remind ourselves of some earlier proverbs concerning friendship. In Proverbs 18:24 we read:

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Whilst there is some debate over the first part of the translation, the verse expresses a wonderful truth. If you are not going to show yourself as warm and caring and friendly you will find it very difficult to attract true friends. People are naturally drawn to those with friendly smiles and welcoming gestures. And to have a friend stick by you through thick and thin is a wonderful blessing indeed.

So how do we show ourselves friendly? Here are some practical examples:

  1. Be genuinely interested. Show warmth, love, and respect toward everyone you meet. Do things because you want to, and not because you have to. Care for them like you would yourself.
  2. Speak about positive topics. Instead of talking about past grievances, discuss future goals.
  3. Adopt a forward-thinking mentality. Make it less about complaining and more about solutions. Doing the latter will make you a more enjoyable person to speak to. A conversation should be an avenue where opinions are aired, not a battleground to pit one’s stance against another. Chat, discuss, and thrash out ideas, but do so amiably as brethren.
  4. Consider others worthy of more value than yourself by seeing the person in their best light. Give credit where credit is due. Recognise talent where you see it. Praise where appropriate.
  5. A great conversation should consist of equal sharing by both parties. It may be 40-60 or 60-40 depending on the circumstances, but both parties should have equal opportunities to share and contribute to the conversation. Be swift to hear.
  6. Show the maturity to give and take. Sometimes people, including we ourselves at times, say some pretty strange things during conversations. You might hear a critical comment here and there, a distasteful remark, an unhelpful comment. Have the wisdom to move past those occasional flaws.
  7. Have a bevy of simple questions to start off conversations: “How was your week?” “What did you think of that talk?” “I loved the point I just heard about… What did you think?” “Have you heard about the latest thing going on in Israel/Russia, etc?” “I heard that Sister XX isn’t well. Do you know how she is?” “Anything planned for the coming week?” “I’m working on a talk on Abraham and would love to get your take on his life.” “Got any good books on the Life of Christ?”
  8. Sharing is important but remember asking one question after another without sharing anything can be perceived as invasive. You want to have a conversation, not an interrogation or an interview.
  9. Drop a genuine compliment: “You look very well today. Did you have a good weekend?”
  10. Remember the exhortation of Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Mutual affection and trust are critical. This is borne out by Proverbs 17:17,

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”

as well as by Proverbs 17:9,

“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”

Tolerance for each other’s idiosyncrasies and forgiveness for any personal slights are crucial ingredients that need to be added into the mix. Confidences need to be shared with a knowledge that they won’t be spread far and wide. Without these foundations the friendship will fracture, and the relationship will be broken almost irreparably.

This brings us back to Proverbs 27. Love and forgiveness do not mean turning a blind eye to things that are evil and wrong. Hence verse 6,

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Heb: abundant).”

The language is quite graphic because the word “wounds” suggests bruises and open injuries caused by cuts. You might see your close friend perpetuating behaviour that is self-destructive. You may see them associating with evil or courting worldly behaviour or developing habits that undermine the value of our calling. Part of being a good friend is to bring this to their attention—something that is easier said than done.

Most of us do not like conflict, especially when it involves someone we care about. It’s not pleasant to be rebuked, nor is it easy to rebuke your friend. Having the compassion and courage to tell our friend that they are out of line makes for awkward confrontation. Speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15) is never easy in these circumstances, but, as James wrote:

“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Restoration — not mere correction, not self-vindication — is the goal of godly rebuke.

Humility and love, well-chosen words, patience and prayer should be at the heart of a wise rebuke.

“Let the righteous smite me,”

said David,

“it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (Psa 141:5).

The strokes inflicted by one who truly loves us, although they might uncomfortably tear open our flesh and wound us, stand in contrast to the deception of one who doesn’t care for us and simply smothers us with false affection.

Proverbs 27:9 states,

“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”

Scent is a powerful sense, and the effect can be immediate and strong. In the same way, a good and honest friend can lift your spirits and cause great pleasure through sincere and profitable advice. What is hearty counsel? The Hebrew is literally:

“from the counsel of the soul”.

It is counsel from the inner recesses of your heart — genuine, sincere, and affectionate. It is counsel filled with goodwill and kindly sentiment, warm with affection and friendly feelings, encompassing a sympathetic understanding and embracing a caring spirit.

How is it sweet? It is both comforting and encouraging. It stirs the mind with confidence, goodwill, hope, joy, and thanksgiving. As pleasant odours can stir our senses, so good advice, hearty counsel and the exchange of shared experiences can pleasantly enliven our spiritual lives in Christ. Are you such a friend?

The author of the Proverbs continues his advice:

“Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not” (Prov 27:10).

Here is an exhortation to keep the friendship alive. This takes energy and interest and time. Without this the relationship built over many years will flounder. Keeping in regular contact is crucial. Friends who have been known over many years and have proved faithful over time should be kept and valued. Indeed, the reliable family friend should be cherished and regarded with the utmost affection. Don’t forsake them, warns the proverb.

The verse continues:

“neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.”

As one commentator remarked:

“Better is a neighbour who is really “near” in heart and spirit, than a brother who, though closer by blood, is “far off” in feeling.”

There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother and such friends should be sought out in times of difficulty and distress.

Friendship is a two-way street. It is not just one party receiving all the encouragement and all the affection. How we treat our friends is paramount. Take Proverbs 27:14 as an example of what not to do:

“He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.”

We get the rather humorous picture of a man arriving at the house of his friend at some unearthly hour in the morning and shouting out his greetings and deeply felt thankfulness through the open window! It is an action guaranteed to turn that friendship sour. What one man considers a blessing, another considers a curse.

Why would this man praise his friend for everyone to hear so early in the morning? It is out of place and out of proportion. It is excessive and extravagant because it is an attempt at flattery, a false affection that is devoid of sincerity. Flattery is when we give praise and compliments with a view to manipulating people. Sadly, it is easy to become susceptible to flattery and that is why any form of praise may prove to be a severe test of a believer’s character (“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise” Prov 27:21, ESV).

The final reference to friendship in Proverbs 27 can be found in verse 17:

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

Iron is the fourth most abundant element on the earth’s surface. It represents strength (Dan 2:40), but readily oxidises (or rusts) when it comes into contact with oxygen. It is also brittle as well as being hard. We have in this proverb two iron implements that need sharpening. They are friends but both have become blunt, and their spirituality needs honing and sharpening. But both pieces of iron must work together to accomplish the desired intent. The picture described suggests a benefit for both parties. Left alone, both implements would be dull and quite useless.

In biblical times an iron tool would have been sharpened against something harder (possibly a file as in 1 Sam 13:21), to make it smoother, remove deformities, and maintain its ability to cut. Likewise, the interactions between two friends have the capacity to shape and change one another for the better. The countenance is a metaphor for the mind and heart which drive the expressions mirrored upon a person’s face. A sharpened mind is one that is alert and open to further wisdom and understanding.

How can we sharpen each other? Solomon has just mentioned one of the methods — the faithful wound (v6). In addition to this, a wise friend can make us wiser. A loving friend can expand our capacity to love. A biblically knowledgeable friend can enhance our understanding of Scripture (cp Prov 13:20). A good friend pulls us out of harm’s way by offering godly counsel when we have a decision to make. A good friend holds us accountable to our promises and commitments. A good friend challenges us to think deeper, act wiser and feel more intensely. Everyone needs a friend with these sharpening qualities. Being ground to a fine point is painful, but often so necessary.

Our greatest friend is our Master who said:

“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).

When we examine his life in the gospels does it challenge and sharpen us? Perhaps it’s time to reflect seriously on his counsel and his wisdom.

Lampstand

Preceding

Taught by God to love one another

The fear of the Lord

Reason to preach #4 Informed followers of Christ

Reason to preach #5 Trained to do it God’s way

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Additional reading

  1. Lonely in the crowd
  2. “Unnoticed”
  3. What are friends and friendship
  4. Introduction to Yours Faithfully
  5. Friendship born
  6. A true friend is like the air…
  7. Friendship and Offer for the cause of democracy
  8. Subcutaneous power for humanity 1 1940-1960 Influenced by horrors of the century
  9. Subcutaneous power for humanity 2 1950-2010 Post war generations
  10. Subcutaneous power for humanity 3 Facing changing attitudes
  11. Subcutaneous power for humanity 4 Not crossing borders of friendship
  12. Subcutaneous power for humanity 5 Loneliness, Virtual and real friends
  13. Good time to sort out your friends and contacts (Our world)Good time to sort out your friends and contacts (View on the World)
  14. A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks away
  15. A faithful friend medicine of life
  16. A Friend Like You
  17. Living in peace through restoration
  18. The one who knows who you are and where you have been
  19. Trouble in my brain
  20. Own Private Words to bring into a good relationship
  21. Today’s thought “Going with the right people” (January 01)
  22. Today’s thought “Our company” (January 01)
  23. Today’s Thought “Friendship with the world …” (June 09)
  24. Nominal Friends of the Truth
  25. The Golden rule not always as easy as its sounds
  26. Not walking in front of or behind me
  27. The Ecclesia
  28. Reflection for today: hating your brother
  29. No Friendship is an accident
  30. . . . he who plants kindness gathers love.
  31. One of the tasks of true friendship
  32. Offering words of hope
  33. Someone needs …
  34. Carving a friend out of stone
  35. Witnessing because we love

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Related

  1. What is essential in life
  2. You’ve Got A Friend In Me: What Is A Friend Anyway??
  3. Our friend
  4. Miss You My Friend
  5. A Friend – For a Life.
  6. Dear Friend
  7. To my friend…
  8. My Best Friend!
  9. All of my favorites are dead
  10. Best Friend
  11. Different vista
  12. Day 23: A letter to someone. Anyone
  13. Finding My People
  14. Best Friends
  15. Tangled Tales: True Friends
  16. When To Give A Friend Space
  17. Tans and Lillies
  18. The beautiful words by Vanessa McCausland
  19. The flow of Friendship / 友誼的化境
  20. What are friends?
  21. The Burden of Friendship
  22. What about your friends
  23. Personal Story of How I Turned One of My Fiercest of Bullies into The Greatest of Friends
  24. A Penny For Your Thoughts
  25. May 23: I Care
  26. You’ve Got a Friend In …
  27. Of Artists, Minstrels & Drowning Friends
  28. Those Small Things That Bring Me Joy

Over Christadelphians

Free Christadelphians or Brothers and sisters in Christ, living in Belgium, European Union. - Vrijë Christadelphians of Broeders en zusters in Christus wonende in België in de Europese Unie.
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