Sunday, December 13, 2009

Proverbs 27:6 - Know who your friends are

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. - Proverbs 27:6 NKJV

In recovering from the abuse that I have experienced at the hands of people who were supposed to be not only my best friends but also my Christian brothers and sisters I have begun to evaluate the misunderstandings and twisting of certain scriptures that seem to allow and enable this kind of behavior to occur. The one that immediately comes to mind is Proverbs 27:6, referenced above. In my opinion the book of Proverbs is one of the most consistently misapplied portions of all scripture and much of what is extracted from it is abusive and hurtful and misses the point entirely. Such is the case of of Proverbs 27:6.

In my experience only the first half of this verse ever gets quoted. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" and as far as it goes this is true. One of the gifts of friendship is the ability of those we trust as friends to speak truths into our lives that may at the time be painful to hear but that are necessary for our good. What happens though when we leave off the second half of this verse is that we get a skewed message. "The kisses of an enemy are deceitful" seems obvious enough but if you read the two together the picture that emerges to my eyes is one of needing to discern who are our friends and who are our enemies. Most of us aren't going to let known enemies kiss us but most of us WILL let "brothers and sisters in Christ" wound us because we somewhat automatically assume them to be our friends. It is this assumption that allows this verse to become a weapon in the hands of those in every church body who are wolves in sheep's clothing. I have to wonder if the second half of this verse wasn't intended as a prescriptive reminder to be aware that our enemies sometimes come to us with deceitful kisses pretending to be our friends. That all who claim to be our friends aren't worthy of that title and the trust that accompanies it.

That has been my experience in recent months. Finding that those I thought were my closest friends were not who they appeared to be. Learning that the kisses of an enemy are deceitful and realizing that sometimes the deceit is that the enemy is a friend. And yet too often we are taught a boundary-less Christianity that allows and enables this very thing. Misuse of verses such as this one are a part of that.

Much of this blog, sadly, has been about abuse the various authors have experienced at the hands of the church. It would be very easy to dismiss the whole thing as the ranting of people with issues. I challenge my readers, and my co-authors, not to do that. I believe we are the voice of the silent sufferers that are within every congregation too intimidated to speak of their experiences publicly. I believe this because I hear their stories told in whispers week in and week out. I believe it because I have experienced it first hand this year when my grief over what I was seeing happening at my own church was misinterpreted and twisted to be disrespect for the pastor and the fact that others also saw it as I did was twisted to be the result of my sowing discontent. I still shake my head in shocked horror at how that all transpired. I still wonder weekly why I stick it out and stay when I have other options that would be so much easier.

The long and short of it is that I love my church. I still have hope that it can be turned from the path it is on and I guess someone has to be that voice crying in the wilderness and apparently its my turn. I am wiser now though. I don't presume that everyone who I interact with there is my friend. I know who my friends are. They are the ones who have stood by me and held me up this year and for them I am grateful beyond measure. I think this is the challenge within Proverbs 27:6 not that we accept wounds from everyone who chooses to come against us but that we become wise enough to know who our friends are and to know when we are being deceived by the kisses of an enemy. The wounds of a friend ARE faithful. The kisses of an enemy ARE deceitful. Knowing which is which is wisdom.

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