Series: The Wisdom of Friendship
Text: Proverbs 27:6 // Series: The Wisdom of Friendship
Message @ JRCC – Sunday, Oct 3, 2010
Good morning, friends. Welcome here. I trust you were able to gain some new and intriguing information about some of your fellow Ridgites through this name tag exercise. It’s a thinly veiled attempt at two things. Number one, it’s designed to help you navigate around that horribly awkward social situation that happens on Sunday mornings sometimes. You know, that moment that kicks in after you have been hanging out around Jericho for a little while now and it’s kind of past the polite time for people not to know who you are. And you know their name, but they don’t know yours. I see from your smirks that you’ve been in this situation! Yes. Well, today, if you used your smart phone appropriately, you took photos of the name tags of all of the people in that awkward category for you and you’ll spend the week memorizing them. If that doesn’t work out for you, don’t worry… We’ll be publishing our updated photo directory next weekend.
The second reason is that I wanted to make a point about our casual social interactions. That point being that we have in North America, a nasty habit of posturing. Of not really telling the truth about who we are, how we’re feeling or coping, or even fairly standard information such as what we do with our time, how old we really are or how exciting or boring of a person we are. We don’t always tell the truth about ourselves, do we? We posture. We choose our words and our stories carefully to convince people they should like us. And as we talked about last week, this allows some people past the level of the acquaintance circle into the realm of friendship. But even here, with our friends, we can be guarded. Superficial. Motivated sometimes by a deep fear of what those closest to us might do if they knew the real person behind the nametag.
Unmasking that reality and giving us the tools to cultivate deeper and more authentic friendships is part of our thinking behind this 5 part series this fall entitled the Wisdom of Friendship which is rooted in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament – that’s the section in the middle of your Bible where the really old but really smart guys wrote stuff down.
This is part 4 of 5, next week Pastor Keith will look at why the Bible uses the language of friendship to describe our connection to God. But today, we build on last week’s discussion question: “what makes a true friend?”. Last week we talked about the difference between facebook friends and genuine friends and we saw that a true friend stands with you in a time of trouble. There are certain actions that a friend takes that proves they are a genuine friend. And today, we’re going to look at another one of those actions that the Bible says a true friend takes – when necessary, a true friend confronts and corrects us. Let’s pray together.
Have you ever been in a situation where you know that your friend is in the wrong but you’re not sure how or when or perhaps IF you should speak up and tell them? I’m not talking about your friend making a poor choice of shirt to wear or a bad call on their latest haircut or video game purchase… I’m talking about when you know that you know that your friend needs to be confronted and corrected for their own health and for the health of those around them. It’s not a comfortable situation, is it? In our culture, we seldom give friends that much authority to genuinely speak into our lives with the purpose of correction. Friends can tell you you’re an idiot for choosing that movie or that your driving could use some improvement or that you should try harder to be on time, but when was the last time a friend got right up in your face; got right down in your soul, put their finger on something significant and said “this needs to change.” It’s unfortunately a rare occurrence. And I wonder if it isn’t because of a kind of name-tag level friendship phenomenon… We like people to know and observe certain perhaps more superficial things about our lives but actually giving someone other than our spouse or therapist permission to challenge and chastise us is unfortunately rare. As individuals, we protect our pride and our privacy to the point that it makes it difficult for someone to tell us the truth. It’s like Hans Christian Anderson’s classic Danish fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Where two swindlers promise to weave the emperor a beautiful new outfit but really, they leave the dude in the nude and no one has the guts to say to his face – the emperor has no clothes. Until a child, who isn’t fooled by pretense, pomp or circumstance, names it and the whole charade falls apart. And so part of question this morning becomes “In our friendships, what do we have the courage to name?”
Part of our hesitancy around this issue might be because we have difficulty answering the question ‘what should I confront my friend about and what should I just let go?’. Well, the Bible gives us some great marker points to check our motives – passages like Matthew chapter 18 and others which are beyond the scope of our discussion this morning but you’ll be diving into them in your momentum journal this week. But there’s also a great example of friendship that sharpens in Galatians chapter 2. Pastor Keith likes to joke that this is my favorite text – it isn’t – but it’s fun to read. What happens is that in the early spread of the Christian movement, as the Gospel moves geographically out from Jerusalem, it begins to cross cultural barriers and divides. Soon, people of all kinds of ethnicities, nationalities and religious histories are a part of this thing called the church. Well, this makes for some interesting disagreements because the question keeps coming up ‘what is cultural and what is core?’ And in Galatians 2, we see two of the most prominent friends and leaders in the New Testament get into a heated discussion around this. Paul, whose work is primarily with Gentiles and Peter, whose work is primarily with Jews – disagree over cultural practices. And Peter is clearly in the wrong because he says one thing – that all are equal before Jesus – but he does another – he won’t eat with certain ethnicities. And so as his friend, Paul names this as hypocrisy and calls Peter on it. Listen to the exchange in Galatians 2:11
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.” As a friend, Paul recognized that one category where rebuke needs to happen is in the area of hypocrisy…
There’s actually a good ol’ fashioned word that the Bible uses to describe what happens when a friend challenges another friend in this way. It’s the word “rebuke” or “reproof”. The word means to re-direct or to challenge and channel a person away from a certain course of thought or action with their long-term health in mind. But notice that a rebuke still hurts. Listen to Psalm 141:5
“Let a righteous person strike me it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it.”
Ouch! The metaphor here is that it’s like a blow to the head… It’s enough to jar you or knock some sense into you. And even though it hurts in the short term, it is an act of kindness that should not be refused.
Our text this morning puts it in very similar terms. That a rebuke will wound me, but that when it comes from my friends, I need to trust it.
“Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
In other words, people who are name-tag quality friends - They will tell you certain things about yourself. They will flatter you, tell you what you want to hear, they will puff you up. But if the truth ever needs to be spoken, they are not around to do it. This is where a true friend steps up to the plate, calls a spade a spade, names the truth: “the emperor has no clothes.”
I don’t know how many of you have had this experience – of having friends speak the truth into your life. But I can tell you that it’s not that much fun. Proverbs 27 uses the word ‘wounds’ for good reason. I can remember about 4 summers ago when Jericho Ridge was just about 1 year old as a faith community. Things were going along great (at least in my mind), people were coming to faith, we were experiencing good partnerships with other churches in the area and so we decided to do a joint community carnival in August. Some of you were around for this. Well, after we got the date set and planning underway, I got a call from my grandpa inviting me for a fishing trip up in the Queen Charlotte Islands on that same weekend. But I figured, no worries… We can still push ahead and make this thing happen.
- I was driven to make this thing succeed… and it didn’t matter at whose expense.
- This thing became a metaphor for the success of the church. If it succeeded, JRCC was succeeding. And even worse that, if JRCC was succeeding, I was successful. I had tied my identity to the success of the church. Making me a very, very driven person.
- So I pushed and pushed on items, made huge asks of people in terms of service – not because God was asking them to, but because I was asking them to.
- Well, I went fishing, came home… The event wasn’t a huge success but wasn’t a huge failure…
- But a week afterwards, I got a call to go for lunch with a few of the people on the leadership team at that time. I remember it so clearly – the booth we were at, the tone around the table as they told me “Brad, you are not a healthy person. You are driven and not in a good sense of the word… You are driven by ego and not by Jesus.”
- I was defensive. I thought of all the reasons they were off-base… They didn’t understand, they didn’t know. But the truth was that they did know. They did care. They cared enough to say help me mature. To name the deeper places in my life for what they were and to call me to something more pure.
- I saw a counselor to help me unravel some of what was going on in my life and by God’s grace and with the help of those men, I hope and pray that I am a different person today. I call it my Nathan moment… the prophet from the Old Testament who confronted King David saying “you are that man”!
But my friends did this with a purpose… The wanted to see me mature
Do you remember those Public Service Announcements from the early 1980’s? “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk?”
Well, I think we could adopt that for a summary statement about trusted wounds from a friend…
- Friends don’t let friends stay shrunk
They call them to maturity and health…
- A friend who won’t speak the truth in love, isn’t a true friend
We all need friends who will stand with us when we are down, but we also need friends who will speak the truth to us IN LOVE. With a view to helping we mature as a person.
So let me ask you a few questions as we wrap up this morning:
Application and reflection:
- Who has permission to speak the truth in love to you?
– Where do you need to grow up?
Sometimes we don’t know
- Who around you needs to hear a word of loving, healthy correction?
A word of caution:
– Check you motives & words carefully
We all know people who think they have that level of access and trust, but they just exhibit their own pride and arrogance.
To prevent this, keep Ephesians 4 in mind… The purpose of a loving reproof is to Help us grow up:
“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:15 joins together two ideas to give us a great word picture as to what this looks like. We can and should speak the truth to our friends BUT we must do it in love. Who knows… you may just need to take someone out for lunch this week! Or you might get taken out for lunch J.