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What sort of friend do you want? Someone who supports your selfish ways, flatters your fancies, and praises your preferences? Someone who accompanies you along the paths to which this world beckons? An honest look at ourselves can reveal that this is not what we need. A truly loyal and steadfast friend risks offense by telling us what we need to hear to hold us to the path of life.

Proverbs 27:6 reads, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” The verse includes two odd pairings: “faithful wounds” and “harmful kisses.” We normally associate wounds with an enemy and kisses with a friend. But Scripture teaches that some wounds can help and some kisses can hurt. In Proverbs 27:6, the wounds represent the prayerful, patient, and, yes, painful words spoken by a friend as a means of blessing us before the Lord. The kisses refer to insincere and deceptive signs of affection that encourage us toward a destructive path. The wounds may hurt deeply for a time, but the kisses can leave a hidden poison that weakens rather than strengthens.

Like a diligent doctor who wields the scalpel at just the right place and time to promote health and healing, wise Christians know when and how to say hard things to us before it is too late. Such words are usually gentle, often precise, and always oriented to our good as defined by God. They arrive in calm moments more often than in chaotic times. And their best guide is the Bible itself, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

If a friend invokes God’s written Word and faithful instruction to wound in the curative sense, how much more do we need the Holy Spirit’s help to receive those words so that we experience their healing power? So often, our default response to personal criticism is to become defensive, taking umbrage that someone would dare to flag a fault in us. We bristle at being reminded of our desperate need for God’s grace, and we become quick to find all the specks in our brother’s eye instead (Matt. 7:3). But what if we chose to listen? What if we were to thank the Lord for faithful wounds, even when loving words are spoken clumsily, inflicting a few unintended nicks along the way? What if we overlooked the paper cuts and addressed the wounds that expose real problems in our hearts and lives? We might become the sort of people who better reflect the pure love that motivates all of God’s discipline of His people (Heb. 12:6).

God is kind to ordain faithful wounds from a friend. Worship Him for the wounds that marred the friend of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was betrayed by Judas’ kiss (Mark 14:44). Our participation in His resurrection life can enable us to treasure hard words spoken in love.

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