27 September 2016Proverbs 27:1-11
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (vv. 5-6)
Psalm: Psalm 15
The book of Proverbs has a very different flavour to many other books in the Old Testament. Whereas many of the histories and prophecies contained in other books paint a broad-brush picture of God's relationship with the people of Israel, Proverbs focuses on the outworking of this covenant relationship in very specific, everyday situations in the lives of individuals. This means that some proverbs seem positively prosaic - but they demonstrate that there can be no separation between our relationship with God and our thoughts and behaviours in the most mundane of circumstances.
Large sections of the book of Proverbs are devoted to the way in which God's people should live together in community. This is perhaps one of the clearest threads to run throughout the Bible, from the opening chapters of Genesis when God creates a second human being as "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18) to Paul's famous image of the Church as the Body of Christ with many interdependent members (eg 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) to John's vision in the book of Revelation of the nations united around the tree of life (Revelation 22:2). This passage emphasises the importance of honesty and integrity between friends, especially when truth-telling is painful. Yesterday's passage warned of the dangers of people who meddle in quarrels that are not their own; today's warns of the dangers of staying silent because we are afraid of hurting or losing a friend. Of course, this works both ways - a wise person must be able to discern when an "open rebuke" (v. 5) is the most loving approach towards a friend, but must also be able to take what they dish out. To a "ravenous appetite" (v. 7) - someone hungry for open and honest dialogue that will help them to grow - even words that taste bitter initially will become as sweet as honey.
- Think of a time someone criticised something you did or said - how did you feel?
- Think of a time you offered someone constructive criticism. How did you decide they needed to hear it? How did they respond?
- Are there times when it is best to keep our thoughts to ourselves, even with friends? If so, why?
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