Saturday, June 18, 2005

Friendly Wounds

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Implicit in this proverb is the idea that friends sometimes wound us. They are the ones who warn, correct, and speak plainly with us. They give us the truth, even when it hurts. That is what friends do. Christ is called our friend. He is our friend because he speaks plainly with us and faithfully wounds us. He did not leave us to think that we were our own little gods, instead He made sure we know that we are all self-indulgent sinners. He told us our best works are but filthy rags. He told us we deserve the punishment of hell. He told us that He himself is the only way to eternal life. No discussion, just the fact that He is God, and we are not.

This has struck me as I watch discussions over the internet while reading the Bible and some writings of the Reformers. We no longer view a friend as one who wounds, speaks the truth, or deals straightforwardly with us. People yell about those who would use terms like “heretic” or “heresy” (the H-Bomb as it is known these days), but then they welcome as ‘true discussion’ meaningless platitudes devoid of real and needed criticism. Others look for ways to make the Bible more ‘sinner friendly’ and tweak the gospel so it appears less harsh, so it will inflict fewer wounds, and thus becomes a little less faithful. Do I even need to mention politics where straight answers are never given in the fear of causing offense and losing votes? We have become a people whose ears love to hear the sweet song of praise, but who are unable to listen to faithful speech. We are a culture that lists our friends and our enemies by how good they make us feel or how much they hurt us, instead of how faithful they are to the truth and how faithfully they deal the truth to us. When one reads the old reformers or even the early American colonists, one realizes that John Calvin had no problem saying that men of other persuasions were “crack brains”, that Presbyterians opposing the Great Awakening could tell their brethren they were “under a delusion”, and that in his ever-famous communication to Wesley, Whitefield could say, “Nay Sir, ‘tis you who are in error.” It was commonly said at the seminary I attended that such were men of ‘hard times and thus of hard words.’ Perhaps, they were just faithful men of faithful words. Perhaps it is we who have fallen on hard times because of our refusal to speak with such candor and frankness. Perhaps in today’s world we all are so afraid of giving offense that we have neglected that great duty to ‘wound our friends.’ What we need today is a revival of frank discussion. This means not only speaking truthfully, but also a willingness to receive it from others. We need to remember the proverb and rejoice when we are faithfully wounded. We also need to remember that such wounding is a duty of a true friend.