The Faithful Wound

From the October 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Love can be expressed in smiles, kind words and deeds, hugs, cuddles and gifts. But did you know that, at times, it can also be expressed in confrontation and conflict? It can according to wise King Solomon.

“Open rebuke is better than secret love,” he wrote in Proverbs 27:5. Think about that. What good is love unexpressed? It benefits no one. You might feel very loving toward someone, but if you don’t express it, it does that person no good. You know what is more beneficial than that? Open rebuke. At least then the person might actually profit from what is said. Sometimes, rebuke can be extremely helpful.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (verse 6; Revised Standard Version). Yes, sometimes a wound can be “faithful”—meaning it can support, confirm, uphold or nourish you. Like the time your friend barked at you to quit your pity party after a setback at work and move on with your life.

Are you friend enough to deliver a “faithful wound” when necessary? If someone you care about is doing something that is hurting them and they cannot see it or refuse to see it, someone needs to intervene.

The Bible is clear: A Christian cannot fear confrontation. Shying away from it simply because it is uncomfortable is a failure to love someone enough to help them stop hurting themselves or prevent them from making a mistake.

If you are a parent, you must confront your children. A failure to do so is a failure to love them. Read Proverbs 13:24; 19:18 and 29:15. God says if you spare the rod—a direct form of confrontation—you hate your son! If you love him, you will chasten him promptly. The parent who loves his child springs into action when he sees evil. Children everywhere languish under parents who fail to combat society’s evil influences on our children with sufficient force, or who ignore them altogether.

Neglect is not confrontation. Nagging is not confrontation. Negotiation is not confrontation. Godly confrontation means establishing firm rules with clear, just, effective penalties, and following through consistently.

Godly confrontation is hard. But consider the alternative. As you sit back, the evil spreads. It can be like a brush fire on a windy day. If you don’t stamp it out, it will spread.

Here are three steps for exercising loving confrontation.

1. Be courageous.

When the entire nation cowered in the shadow of Goliath, David ran to the battle. Most of us prefer to ignore a problem and sweep it under the rug. There, it smolders and spreads. In these situations, time is not on your side. Don’t procrastinate when you know the responsibility is yours. Sprint forward, grab hold of the problem, and wrestle against it.

2. Be crystal clear.

If you are going to really help someone, the person has to know exactly what you are asking of him. Once you have stepped forward to confront evil in the life of your child, spouse or friend, make sure you state things clearly. Don’t equivocate. Don’t begin to back down now that you are actually eye to eye. “You have to be honest with people—brutally honest,” football coach Bill Parcells said. “You have to tell them the truth about their performance, you have to tell it to them face to face, and you have to tell it to them over and over again. Sometimes the truth will be painful, and sometimes saying it will lead to an uncomfortable confrontation. So be it. The only way to change people is to tell them in the clearest possible terms what they’re doing wrong.”

3. Be humble.

This is essential to love-motivated confrontation. This should motivate you from the moment you notice something is wrong to long after the confrontation has taken place. Remember that you have sins and need to be confronted from time to time. Do not assume you see the whole situation completely. And pray for real godly humility. In fact, the process often involves you being corrected yourself. Jesus said you must remove the beam in your eye before you can attempt to remove the fleck in your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

“[L]et every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Proper confrontation requires emotional maturity, self-control and wisdom. If you confront with your own wrath and emotion—impatience, frustration, bad temper—you will make many mistakes. Do not discipline your children with these emotions; they are only destructive. Your only anger should be righteous anger against sin, directed by God and tempered with His wisdom and mercy.

Godly confrontation must be done the right way, with courage, clarity and humility. It requires you to eradicate pride, frustration and wrong emotion. It requires you to take personal correction yourself. However, do not let the hard work of godly confrontation dissuade you from doing it when required. Don’t fear confrontation—fear the sin, the evil, the suffering that results from neglecting confrontation. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. They are a form of love, and a Christian duty.