5 Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.
In order to explain this proverb, we need to nail down some definitions. I think we all know what open rebuke is. It is confrontation. It is calling out sin. But what does it mean to carefully conceal love?
This is the sort of thing that often happens in families or other close-knit communities, where we neglect holding someone accountable. We love them, but we fail to stop them from hurting themselves, or others, by committing offenses against God and other people. Different factors come into play here, and different root motivations might cause us to hide our love.
For instance, idolatry can do this. This is the sort of thing where we put the loved one before our love for God. In other words, we idolize them, and in our opinion, they can do no wrong, or every wrong they might do has a justifiable cause. One form of this is when parents are over-protective and under-exacting of their children. It looks like sheltering children from hard consequences, when wisdom says the child probably needs to learn of and even experience these very same consequences.
Another thing that conceals love is bad doctrine, teaching, or learned habits. Rather than speaking the truth in love, some people think that the “Christian” thing to do is always to turn the other cheek. They may have grown up in a family that never addressed problems, or they may have been taught a truncated gospel. Ultimately, they believe love is sentimental, defined by soft and warm feelings, and certainly does not hold its ground or confront. This is bad doctrine. Love requires truth, and false love ultimately brings pain and suffering.
Another false way of thinking is a failure to grasp our own worth. We can twist the doctrine of total depravity, the fact that we are all sinners, into a thinking that somehow we deserve to suffer. In this case, we fail to rebuke because of insecurity. The answer is the gospel. We don’t deserve to be mistreated. God loves us, He chose us from before the foundation of the world. He sent His Son to die for us. What greater value could He bestow on us?
Another reason that may cause us to conceal our love for another person is fear. What are we afraid of? We fear what we don’t know. We are afraid we are not seeing clearly, and that confrontation might be unjust. We fear that there might be consequences of confrontation, and things could get worse. Being governed by fear can certainly cause us to carefully conceal our love and affections. But God wants us to live, not in fear, but in strength, standing firm on His promises… that He will not leave us or forsake us.
The final root cause for hiding love which I’ll address this morning is simple laziness. Sometimes we don’t confront because it’s work to rebuke. It’s work to invest in each other. It’s easier to “let sleeping dogs lie”. It’s easier to ignore the problem and hope it will go away. It’s easier, but it’s not love.
Love is proactive. Love cares enough to do something about problems. Love embraces truth and refuses to let go of it. Love worships God, and makes Him and His standards our hearts’ and souls’ highest good. And perfect love casts out fear.
This kind of love is sanctifying love. It is love that changes us into the likeness of our Lord and makes us holy. It gives us the courage to stand up and bear witness that God is in heaven, and He holds us all accountable. Therefore, we must humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sins, and crying out for the mercy of His gospel.