Balancing Act


I’ve been curious about friendships lately.  It seems to me, as it is with so many things, that there are two extremes in friendships.  I want to know when each extreme is the right response.

Scripture has a lot to say about friendships.  We all know the verses.  “A friend loves at all times”  or “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. times” or “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friend.”  The Bible is full of stories of friends.  Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and Lazarus, Jesus and His disciples, and of course, Jonathan and David.  Friendship is a beautiful thing– a blessing from the Lord.

Proverbs says (and I can’t help but lapse into my KJV version of Proverbs 27:6): Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

You know, that’s a pretty strong statement.  Friends don’t sugar coat truth.  As Knightley did in Jane Austen’s Emma, when a real wrong has been committed, a true friend will confront it.  Knightley’s correction is a beautiful blending of Proverbs 27:6 and Matthew 18.  He went to her, privately, and showed her kindly but firmly where she was wrong.  Friends do that.

However, sometimes we seem to use these verses as an excuse to whip our friends with the Word.  We take out our scriptural six-shooter and fire it at will all in the name of “being a faithful friend.”  Where’s the balance?  There has to be a SCRIPTURAL balance between being that “faithful friend” who speaks the truth and corrects a friend even if it hurts and allowing our love for our friend to overlook a failing.  I love 1 Peter 4:8.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

So which is applicable when.  We know that scripture covers all of life, so clearly there are times to confront and rebuke and there are times to cover someone’s fault in love.  After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Isn’t that what the whole point of Him dying on the cross was all about?  Covering our sins in His blood because of His great love for us?  You know, Proverbs talks about these too.

Well…

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  (Prov. 10:12)
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.  (Proverbs 17:19)

And then there’s my beloved James.  I really do have a deep love for that book.  It really seems to address so much of the Christian walk.  I remember when we had to memorize it in the ninth grade.  I was so frustrated.  Why couldn’t it be Psalms or Proverbs?  Those were such “practical” books.  Now I thank Mr. and Mrs. Bills for choosing James.  I truly believe God knew how much I needed it infused into my life.

let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.   (James 5:20)

There is clearly a time and a place for both.

One of my favorite hymns is flowing through my head right now.  I can’t stop thinking of one line in it…

Angry Words

Angry words! O let them never,
From the tongue unbridled slip,
May the heart’s best impulse ever,
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment’s reckless folly,
Thus to desolate and mar.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

Angry words are lightly spoken,
Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred,
Brightest links of life are broken,
By a single angry word.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

You know… this song is about speaking in anger, which isn’t what I’m pondering, but those lines really keep reverberating in my mind.  Friendship is too beautiful– too much of a gift– not to take it seriously when our friends are straying from the Lord.  It also works the other way around.  Friendship is also too much of a blessing to damage with our meddling when love can cover.  It’s just so hard to know which is appropriate.

I’ve had a thought these past few weeks, which is what prompted this.  I have no idea if I’m out in left field or not, but I think I might have stumbled on one little nugget.  People talk a lot about Matthew 18.  It’s almost as if that’s the excuse to whip their friends with the Word.  “Well, we’re COMMANDED in Matthew 18…”  Well, I wonder.  You see, if I know I’ve offended a friend–KNOW– I’ll go and apologize.  Even if I can’t confess I’ve done wrong if I don’t think I have, I can apologize for causing pain.  I can ask forgiveness for HOW I said something or WHEN.  There is usually a legitimate way to mend that fence.  However, when someone has “offended” me (I usually am more a little irritated than anything), I tend to wait.  Take a deep breath.  Go to the Word.  It rarely takes me long to get from the “offense” stage to the “forgiveness” stage and almost never after saying something.  I don’t need to.  I can get over it by myself.  When I CAN’T… that’s when I think Matthew 18 applies.

When I thought about that, I wondered.  Is that what these two ideas are about?  When someone does something that is wrong– AGAINST ME– can I allow my love for them to cover it?  Can I say, “Lord, please help them see where they need You in this” and let it go?  Wouldn’t I want them to do that for me?  Do I really want people coming to me and beating me up with what I probably already know I need to correct?  No, they probably don’t mean to beat, but when you’re already under conviction for your own sin, someone else coming along and dropping it back on your head as you’re trying to work through it FEELS like you’re being beaten.  No, I don’t want my friends to ignore sin in my life.  I don’t.  If they see me gossiping, I want them to confront me.  If they see me dishonoring my husband, I want them to confront me.  If they see me damaging the name of Christ by my actions, I WANT THEM to confront me.  I do.  I won’t like it, but I want it.

However, if I said something that hurt… I’d appreciate it if they took it in context.  Stepped away from the situation.  Thought about how I’ve spoken to them in the past.  Considered how ready I usually am to recognize that I’ve hurt them, and just maybe assume the best about me.  I’d like it if they recognize that I usually do attempt to make things right when someone is upset with me– even if I disagree!  I’m ok with that.  Sometimes it is a very huge burden to hear, once more, just where you’ve failed a brother or sister.  You can’t be all things to all men all at once all the time all by yourself.  You just can’t.  Sometimes you’re going to fail.  I’d love it if my friends realized that when these little things come up and say, “She probably didn’t mean it how it came off.”  I know many of them do that for me– and maybe even more than is warranted.  I thank you all.  It’s a blessing.

But, that’s where I’m starting to see a difference.  Jane comes along and says something hurtful.  This isn’t a habit of hers.  She’s not always sending stinging jabs to people.  She hurts me.  I can do one of two things.  I can confront it (which, after all, is Biblical) or I can cover it in love for her, knowing she probably wouldn’t have said/done that at just about any other time.  I think that’s a good thing.

But if Jane is engaged in something that is a breach of her relationship with the Lord… ok… example… how about she is involved in a sexual relationship and is not married.  I think that’s when that “faithful wounding” comes in.  We go straight to our friend, with the Word, and we show them, in the Word, where they are in sin.  We pray, we beg them to repent.  We’re loving but firm about their sin.  And, we hope, that a James 5:20 results!

I think the difference is that one is about us and one is about them.  I mean, if Jane (my apologies to all real Janes btw) had a habit of hurting people with her words, I’d say that Biblical rebuke and confrontation might be appropriate there, but then it wouldn’t be about us anymore, would it?  It wouldn’t be about how she hurt me.  It’d be about how she is hurting the Body of Christ– and therefore Jesus himself.

I don’t know… I’m just trying to figure these things out, but it seems to make sense.  What do you think?  When do we risk wounding our friends with faithful counsel and when do we allow love to cover a multitude of sins?

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