Open rebuke is better than concealed love. Proverbs 27:5 (Waltke)
Concealed – Want to really be my friend? Gently rebuke me! If you withhold your correction for fear of confrontation, you have really demonstrated selfishness. Would you rather let me flounder than risk the truth? Then you are no friend of mine.
Solomon points out that an expression of love that is not able to confront, is impotent. It does nothing to actively promote the well being of the other person. In fact, Solomon uses a word (mesutaret) that is derived from a verb that means “to stop up, fill up or plug up something.” In this form, it means to hide or keep secret, to keep something from being shown. Love without accountability is like a spring buried under rocks. It will never refresh. Just as wisdom and correction are two sides of the same spiritual coin, so love and gentle rebuke show themselves wedded together. A fruitful and lasting relationship is ready to risk all to save another. If you can’t tell me what you really see, you don’t really care about me. If I can’t listen to what you need to say, I don’t really care about you. Sometimes love hurts in order to heal.
Solomon is not saying anything new. He knew God’s law. Leviticus 19:17 commands us to rebuke our neighbor. It is immediately followed by the command to love him as we love ourselves. You don’t get one without the other. Too often we think that love always means being kind, so we withhold our constructive criticism, because we have been taught not to judge. We are really confused. When someone I love is walking a path that is leading them away from life and the Source of life, how can I stand by and not act to rescue? What kind of parent or husband or friend would I be if I did nothing while my child or spouse of neighbor put their lives in danger by attitude or action? We all agree – we must act. So, why don’t we?
The problem is our emotional concern with damage to the relationship. We don’t want to see the love we share put at risk. We are thinking of how it will affect us. Too many times we would rather live with the little love we have than risk losing it in order to bring well-being to the other person. Solomon’s proverb first demands a deep and serious inspection of our motives. We must ask if we are really trying to rescue or if we are trying to save our own emotional status. Do I turn a blind eye because I don’t want to suffer through the pain of confrontation even when I know that a rebuke might bring you back into alignment with the Lord? I have to know my motives before a rebuke becomes a gentle act of love. This is dangerous ground. I am not always aware of my own agenda. Prayer and more prayer proceeds confrontation. The only way I will even know how to proceed is through the direct leading of God. Why? Because He knows me and my friend. I need His wisdom in order to know myself and see how I can be His agent of gentle rebuke.
How would your confrontations with others, intended to help, change if they were driven by prayer instead of personal agenda?