One of the #1 character qualities people want in a friend is honesty. But to be honest, honesty is pretty hard. Honesty is hard because telling the truth to our friends is sometimes hard and we don't like hard. We would prefer the easy road.
The Bible confirms that a good friend is honest (and that it hurts).
"Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
Our culture has duped us into believing that the #1 quality of love is tolerance. Therefore, a good friend always puts up with everything you say and do. He will never tell you that you are wrong (which might hurt your feelings).
It is easy for us to believe this because it appeals to our selfishness. We would rather everyone always be happy with us and like us. We would rather avoid conflict. But according to God, that is not what a good friend does.
In the church (our relationships to brothers and sisters in Christ), we have an even greater responsibility to help each other out by being honest. Our responsibility is not just to those whom we would consider our closest friends.
Here are a few important principles about living in community with fellow believers:
1. Speak the truth in love.
(See Prov 27:5-6 above and Eph 4:15; Matt 18:15). When you have a concern about a brother or sister, love them enough to ask questions and learn more about it. Love them enough to share your concern. There is always the risk for nitpicking, judgmental people to abuse this (another subject for another day), but in my circles, the primary problem is an unwillingness to speak the truth.
2. Don't share your concerns about a friend with others.
"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."
Gossip and slander is very destructive. Also be watchful for gossip disguised as a prayer request!
Here are a couple of exceptions to this principle:
- When you are talking to one or two mature, trustworthy people for prayer and council about helping your friend who is in a serious situation.
- When your friend won't listen to you and you need some back up (Matt 18:16).
The next two points are steps to take when someone is trying to talk to you negatively about another person.
3. Don't form opinions about a person being talked about without getting the full story.
"The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him."
4. Encourage others to speak the truth in love to their friends.
If someone talks negatively about someone to you, then encourage them to follow the first two principles.
And if you sense that the person sharing information is not truly concerned, or not willing to help his friend, then ask him to stop talking to you about others.
Think of a friend you love that needs your help today. Remember, only an enemy offers nothing but kisses!