Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
This saying, a proverb, highlights a problem that was happening 2500 years ago and is still happening today: people mis-diagnose relationships.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that the proverb is a rule about all relationships. To understand the saying, you have to understand how proverbs work.
A proverb is like key that you use on a specific door. You can’t apply them for every single situation. So that makes the Book of Proverbs like a huge keychain with a bunch of keys. You have to find the right situation to apply the saying.
This is why sometimes they sound (but are not really) contradictory.
For instance: Proverbs 26:4 says “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly” while Proverbs 26:5 says “Answer a fool according to his folly”!
Well, do you use Proverbs 26:4 in every situation? No! Not in the situations where you have to use Proverbs 26:5.
How will you know which situation demands which proverb? Well, that’s why really smart people call the book of Proverbs “Wisdom Literature”. You know how, and when, to use the right ones by being wise.
Wisdom in the Bible isn’t only about being smart or knowing when to use what you know. It’s primarily about understanding life under the Lordship of God so as to live rightly (Proverbs 1:1-7).
The quote I opened with is from Proverbs 27:6 and it us a key for a certain type of situation that, without the existence of God, would leave us completely clueless—where we’re in the worst relationship but we think it’s the best.
Well, we think we know ourselves best, so we automatically assume we know what’s the best way to make ourselves happy. We create mini-universes, with us in the center, and we know exactly what to put where to make ourselves happy. We think we know best.
That thinking is fatal.
We have limited vision. We only know the quickest way possible to give us momentary smiles, but we never really know what would make us fundamentally, unfalteringly, happy. To know that, we would have to know the full picture, every situation that shapes us, our full character—flaws and all—and be able to do something about it. But we don’t know any of that: only the present.
We’re ultimately clueless.
Ask a hormone-filled teenage boy what would make him happy his clueless answer will differ dramatically from the man who has been married sixty years and is holding his hurting and dying wife’s hand.
Quick short cuts to a smile don’t really give us that deeply satisfied, unshakeable happiness.
This proverb, therefore, pits two things against each other—what we think is best and what we think is awful—to teach us wisdom.
What do I mean?
Well, think about kisses. Kisses feel great and they make us feel loved. They give us a sense of intimacy. Kisses in the ancient world would even be used for hellos: you knew that when the person kissed you, they were on your side. They were, at that moment, your community. And the more people lining up to give them, the bigger your support circle. And the more of them you got from a person, the more they really liked you! T
Kisses are the best, we think…
..until we see that the proverb suggests that some pain is good.
Woah, wait a minute: none of us like pain. We don’t want to go through it. Wounds hurt! But the proverb says that there is a situation where real love hurts.
I don’t mean some stupid romantic thing that if it’s love you’ll have all those painful emotions that go with it. What I mean is that if a person loves you they will seek your best, not their own best. Love, the real kind, isn’t me-focused. It focuses outwards. It hurts the lover and it hurts the loved and is ultimately a compass towards real happiness.
Think about Mom who keeps pulling Toddler away from the hot radiator. Toddler thinks what would make him happy is touching the shiny metal thing but Mom keeps pulling him away. He doesn’t like it. The whole situation is awful. He bites at Mom. He kicks at Mom. But Mom just keeps on pulling him away from the radiator. Mom is being mistreated in the situation and it hurts her to keep up what she’s doing, but she loves Toddler. When Toddler grows up and sees the footage of how he was treating mom and what she was saving him from, he is blown away by Mom’s love.
This principle, that love hurts, is throughout the Bible.
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head!” (Psalm 141:5) or again in Proverbs 25:12 “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.”
In other words, when an actually good person corrects me, and I don’t like correction, he’s rescuing me for my good. I don’t like the pain, but that love is saving me from the flaw in my situation or me.
So we see that we’re not to hate the Lord’s correction (Proverbs 3:11–12). He is the eternal Dad and he corrects His kids (Hebrews 12:4-11). His kids should be grateful that he cares enough to cause those corrective hurts.
The proverb, therefore, unveils the problem: kisses can kill.
Sure they feel great, but kisses from the wrong folk are a trap. When your enemy wraps his arms around you and tells you everything is okay—be careful! He’s got you right where he wants! In the words of Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”
The proverb not only reveals the trap, but it calls us to examine our relationships.
Are we in the type of relationship where we do wrong and folk grab our arms to pull us back from disaster? Or are we in the kind of relationship where we jump off bridges to the applause of our enemies? Are our friends really our friends or are they enemies that call themselves friends? Are you really cared for or are you simply a banner for their cause?
God is utterly different. He knows the end from the beginning. He is intimately involved without whispering ephemeral mutterings in ears. He spends his time convicting his kids, teaching us, molding us, and even allowing us to go through seriously tough times because he knows exactly what it will take to make us the very best.
He went so far in this love-work that he died for us. That’s huge. We caused him pain while he was seeking our best. He bore the marks of our rebellion, and his love for us, on his body pinned to wood.
What’s the point here? Properly diagnose your relationships through the eternal lens.
God exists. That means that there really is a way that leads to him and a way that leads against him. If the first step in embracing kisses is to turn your back on God, that unveils the true intentions of those amorous intentions!
God really does care. He purchased you in a community of flawed people. He then proceeded to pour his Holy Spirit in that community. These people, who have confessed Him as Lord, have taken the first steps towards wisdom. It doesn’t mean that they’re always right about everything, but it does mean that if anyone cares, it is the group that is being molded by God (Phil 1:6).
God really speaks. Not in the ears of people, but Scripture. What it says is really for our own good even though it says things that might offend us right now. Real love would not remain silent while letting us wallow in our weakness but it will shout out challenges intent on growth! And God does this through the Scriptures he provided. They are up to the task.
Examine your friendship circles. Don’t be suckered by the clapping of fools who cheer you on when you are doing seriously stupid things even though you think you’re being pretty darn smart. Don’t be seduced by their kisses when you leap into the idolatrous bed with them in raising your fist against God. They don’t mean it for your good; they mean it for themselves: that road ends in catastrophe.
Be wise. This will take practice and brokenness, but it begins with looking beyond your situation, your pain, your desires, and your confusion to God.