July 5, 2007

Come Out of Hiding

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  – Proverbs 27:5

Hidden love is surely akin to fat-free chocolate ice cream or voluntary taxes. 

What's the point? 

Love is, by Biblical definition, not a static feeling of veiled emotion but an active, outward engagement of the will.  How Jesus felt about God's people is beside the point; the good news is that he up and travelled to the cross.  So by "hidden love" Proverbs is not thinking here of the clandestine romantic lover, who holds his affection in secret for fear of rejection. (For more on that kind of love, see Song of Songs in the Old Testament.  Wow—who knew that kind of stuff was in the Bible?!)  No, the context for 27:5 is good old-fashioned, right as rain, everyday friendship—a kind of love to which we are all called in this Christian life (1 John 3:18). 

Aside: Let us note, however, that friendship and romance do have something to do with one another:  Lovers better be friends as well, else when all that heat chills for a time (and it will, quite naturally), without friendship they'll have nothing but old embers to keep them warm in the cold.  Friends, however, see it through.  Friendship undergirds most every other kind of relationship, including passion.

So Proverbs 27:5 says, in effect: It's better to have a friend who offers you  constructive criticism in the open than a friend who never demonstrates any love in the first place.  Words of correction (what the Bible calls "rebuke") must always be measured against history.  If a strange bloke fresh off the street catches me after church and says "that was a bad sermon," I'm inclined to send him packing, opinions and all.  But if my colleague and mentor Bill Youmans—a friend of 15 years—offers the same conclusion, I'll swallow my pride, listen closely, and take it to heart.  The difference?  Trust born of history.  I know Bill loves me, so I'll heed his rebuke because his love has never been hidden over the years.

The reality is that there will likely come a day when your relationship will call for hard words of truth, justice, or concern.  Such a correction will go down much easier if your friend (companion, coworker, cousin … whomever) has a history with you—an experience of your love.  (When in Luke 13:34-35 Jesus dismisses the people of Jerusalem for their rejection of his ways, it is clear to the reader that his rebuke is born out of love, not hate.  We can feel the pathos of "they should have known better."  He's loved them all along.)

Bottom line: Don't hold back your love with those you love, either your words or your actions.  Let it flow.  Look for ways to bless your spouse, your children, your friends, with signs and seals of what they mean to you.  Be brave and express and/or demonstrate it in whatever ways come naturally to you.  I've never heard of a person who at the end of his life had regrets because he loved too much or expressed it too often.  Make sure those you love know where they stand with you. 

Come on out of your hiding, Christian, because waiting for the other to make the first move might just make it too late.  Christ's love for you is all you need to love another in this way (1 John 4:19).