6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
The truth in this proverb requires us to take a deeper look at the world, or what might be called, “the long view.” The absolutes in this verse are friend and enemy. Friends are faithful and enemies are deceitful. The cognitive dissonance, or mental stress/discomfort, comes from attaching wounds to friends and kisses to enemies.
As children, we need and like simple rules. We like comic book worlds where good guys are good and bad guys are bad. The hero is handsome and noble, and always wins, and the bad guy has a pointy head, an evil laugh, and an obvious evil plan, like “kill Superman and enslave humanity”, but he always loses.
This is useful as far as it goes. The grand narrative of God is that good does overcome evil. It is helpful to define what evil is and to help our kids recognize it. Some things ARE obvious. Isis both looks bad and is bad. The same was true about Hitler and Stalin. On a smaller scale, bullies, drunks, drug dealers, and pimps fit the bill. Their sin is obvious and gross, therefore we fight or keep our distance.
But wisdom and maturity mean understanding that we live in a complex world.
Sometimes the bad guys seem to be good guys. Sometimes enemies are close enough to kiss us. Other times, good guys seem to be bad. Sometimes friends hurt us. In order to learn and embrace this wisdom, we must acknowledge two realities… first, ultimately, God defines what a friend or an enemy is. Second, we all have both darkness and light in ourselves.
This first reality is what I referred to as “the long view”, or the deeper look at the world a few moments ago. Ultimately, in the long run, a friend is anyone who loves us and who desires our best interest. The Christian definition for this is that a true friend is anyone who wants to fill our lives with good, glory, peace, and righteousness that lasts forever. In other words, they want to draw us closer to God, and God closer to us.
The second reality (our fallen nature) means that sometimes we need to hear rebuke Sometimes we need to be called out for our sin, because it will damage us and those around us, and can ultimately lead to death.
The inverse is true of our enemies. Ultimately, they desire our downfall, and they realize the convenience of winning our trust or flattering our egos in order to obtain their goals.
In the end, humility discerns the difference. Both friends and enemies wound us, and both enemies and friends kiss us (at least metaphorically). We need humility in order to discern whether a wound is faithful, deserved, and delivered by a friend, or an attack from an enemy.
Therefore we should take criticism wisely. We should honestly ask whether there is a grain of truth in it, and if there is, we should be ready with an eye toward repentance… In this particular aspect, even the wounds of enemies can be of great service to us! But what we may not do is turn on anyone who brings a rebuke without first humbly asking this question, lest we alienate our friends.
Likewise, we must be circumspect about the praise we receive. It certainly may be the encouragement of a friend, but we must beware of those who would inflate our egos, because “pride comes before a fall.”
The fact is that a friend won’t stand by and let us destroy ourselves. Jesus preaches hard sermons, not because he hates us, He does it because He loves us, and we need to be woken up!