Proverbs 27:5

Open rebuke is better than secret love.

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How do you love your friends? Do they truly love you? Here is a short and somewhat obscure proverb, but it is one you must learn and practice from both directions. Are you a true, loving friend? Do you have loving friends, and do you appreciate the way they love?

There are two kinds of friends, shown by rebuke and love and by the following verse (Pr 27:6). One is better than the other, so you must learn and love the good one and reject and despise the bad. Solomon by inspiration of God defined true friendship and love for you.

What is open rebuke? It is telling a man his fault personally and directly, whether against you, others, or God. It is open, for you do it to his face, rather than pretending all is well; and it is rebuke, for you reprove his error, rather than flatter with compliments. Open rebuke is not telling others, for unnecessarily telling others is wrong (Pr 25:9; 11:13).

Jesus Christ taught this rule (Matt 18:15); James taught it (James 5:19-20); Paul taught it (Gal 6:1-3); and Paul practiced it with Peter, whose fault was public (Gal 2:11-14). True friends, the kind appreciated by the Son of God and His apostles obeyed this proverb.

Rebuking a friend for sin is true love, which Moses had taught long before (Lev 19:17). Not correcting him is truly hatred. Charity cannot bear its object in sin (I Cor 13:6), as helping them live a holy life is the highest measure of love and friendship (I Sam 23:16).

What is secret love? It is showing affection, friendship, and service without the courage or commitment to correct another’s faults. It is secret, for the real character of love – correction – is missing; it is called love sarcastically, for only outward flattery and superficial kindness exist in such a relationship. It is truly hatred (Lev 19:17).

The connected proverb helps (Pr 27:6). A friend wounding you by correction is faithful; a friend who kisses without correction is an enemy. The kisses are deceitful, for there is no substance; the wound is faithful, for it is proof of true friendship. Greater favor and stronger friendship will result from rebuke than from worldly flattery (Pr 28:23; 27:9).

Dear reader, do you love this way? If so, you will warn the unruly (I Thes 5:14), reprove and chasten your children (Pr 13:24; 29:15), provoke others to righteousness (Heb 3:12-13; 10:23-25), and please others, rather than yourself, for their edification (Rom 15:1-2).

Do you receive the open rebuke of this proverb without bristling? David said he would consider reproof and smiting by a righteous man a true act of kindness (Ps 141:5). As a sinner, you need such friends, who will confront rather than flatter you. Cherish them!

Jesus faithfully rebuked His dear friends (Matt 16:23; Luke 9:55; John 21:17), and they spent the rest of their lives profiting from his loving and faithful investment in them. The greatest love letter ever written is the Bible, and you will be personally rebuked every time you read it with godly humility and sincerity. Read it today to know the love of God.