“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend are faithful, but an enemy multiplies kisses. One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” Proverbs 27:5-7
How do you handle criticism and honesty? I don’t mean the rash or brazen criticism that’s easy to shirk off. I am talking about the sit down one-anothering that comes from difficult words by a loving friend. What if you worked really hard at something and felt really proud of your work only to have it criticized and for lack of a better word, “rejected.”
I used to find any criticism as an attack. I would discount all words of correction as a personal affront, truly I still struggle with this. But isn’t the rebuke of a friend and the words of correction necessary for growth? If we are only around people who offer us coke a cola answers to our struggles and “performances” we are in a dangerous place.
Growth for anyone requires a good friend to be honest with you. For the Christian, this type of friendship is essential. The version of Jesus that I was taught to believe in was the nice guy who let people punch him on both cheeks and then let men kill him. But if we read the Gospels carefully we see phrases that don’t fit that mold. Many places Jesus holds nothing back, “You brood of vipers”, “You should not be surprised by this”, “Oh, you of little faith”, “Go and learn what this means”, “Woe to you”, “You’re a teacher of Israel and you don’t understand this”, “Get out of here!”, “Does this offend you?” and many others.
This certainly doesn’t sum up who Jesus was but it does demonstrate the truth of love. Love isn’t a door mat. Love isn’t a feeling that you get when someone likes your Facebook pictures. Love isn’t acceptance by a group that never holds you accountable. Love is hard. Love is faithful. Love is offensive because it requires. The author of Hebrews reiterates the teachings in Psalms and Proverbs when he says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined-and everyone undergoes discipline (if they are true children)-then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”
There is beauty in rebuke. If we didn’t require rebuke then why did Christ die? The author of Hebrews continues in chapter 12, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
The real beauty of rebuke is that it demonstrates to us the love of God in Christ enduring the cross on our behalf. Jesus did not ignore the hard work of discipline and was/and is not a god of complete and utter acceptance. If we ignore rebuke and correction for training in righteousness and surround ourselves with communities of people who never offer hard truths then we ignore the suffering and anguish that Christ endured on our behalf.
Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs because true love, God’s love took on all of those wrongs when he offered himself up for us. He didn’t just forget about our offenses without consequence, he absorbed them. Give thanks if you are loved by a friend who can offer you open rebuke and then remind you that you are more wicked than you could possible imagine but more deeply loved that you could ever understand.
Our instruction to understand discipline and correction is driven by the knowledge that Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us of, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God doesn’t discipline out of anger or out of inexperience, he does so as one who is fully disciplined and endured. He disciplines out of love.
Blessed are you who undergo discipline. For to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.