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Why is an open rebuke better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5)?

open rebuke better than secret love

Open and honest communication is characteristic of faithful and loving relationships. Solomon addressed the subject in Proverbs 27:5–6: “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (KJV 1900).

Nineteen proverbs identify one thing as “better than” another. In Proverbs 27:5, open rebuke is better than secret love. Open rebuke speaks of straightforward, direct correction of another person’s wrongs without reserve or secretiveness. Such a rebuke may sting at first, but a healthy reprimand can be a genuine expression of love: “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12, NLT; cf. Hebrews 12:6; see also Revelation 3:19).

Throughout the book of Proverbs, open rebuke is presented as a good and valuable form of instruction. Those who respond correctly to it are “on the pathway to life” (Proverbs 10:17, NLT). They are considered “wise” and “understanding” (Proverbs 9:8; 15:5; 17:10). But those who scorn and reject rebuke are on a path to poverty, disgrace, destruction, and death (Proverbs 1:23–26; 15:10).

Open rebuke is better than secret love because “in the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery” (Proverbs 28:23, NLT). For this reason, the psalmist prayed, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it” (Psalm 141:5, NLT). We can trust a rebuke from a godly person because we know the motivation is heartfelt concern for our welfare. “Rebuke the wise and they will love you,” declares Proverbs 9:8.

Secret love refers to love that is unknowable, invisible, closed off, ignored, or withdrawn. Such love has given up and doesn’t even bother to tell a friend his faults. Even unpleasant, disciplinary interaction is preferable to no communication or an apathetic attitude that doesn’t care enough to express concern for our well-being. It takes courage and genuine love to speak plainly to a friend who needs correcting. A true friend shows love through time and attention, even if that attention sometimes takes the form of a rebuke.

Secret love lacks the courage to speak out or act and instead allows a friend to go on sinning. But God’s love calls us to intervene compassionately (Job 6:14; Proverbs 3:27; 17:17; Romans 12:9–10; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:3–4). James explained, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20).

Jesus also made it clear that, among believers in Christ, open rebuke is better than secret love: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15). The apostle Paul reiterated the principle: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1, NLT).

Open rebuke is better than secret love highlights the need for honest communication and meaningful interaction with the people God has placed in our lives. Few things will destroy a relationship faster than apathy and being ignored.

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Why is an open rebuke better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5)?
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This page last updated: August 29, 2022