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Friendship and Conflict

One note of importance as we begin, the Hebrew word that is translated “friend” is reah. “Friend” is not is the primary meaning. More than half the time reah is translated as “neighbor”. And many times it’s impossible to discern if the translation “friend” or “neighbor” is to be used for a particular verse. Here’s why that’s important: relationships are a community issue. It’s never individualistic. The social fabric of our church is to be protected by everyone in the church.

The teaching of Proverbs on friendship can be summarized in 5 principles…

1 – Friendships are good and beneficial

Proverbs 17:17

The question is not if you will face adversity, but how will you respond? And who will walk with you through that time? This proverbs suggests both friends and siblings. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Proverbs 18:24

This proverbs makes the simple observation that quantity does not equal quality.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendships are built over long periods of time. There are even generational friendships. Maintain them!! It’s always easy to start a new relationship because nothing bad has happened yet.

Proverbs 27:17

Obviously, the rubbing of an iron blade against an iron block would sharpen the blade. As a blade is used, it becomes dull and can even get notches in it. So, care must be given in sharpening the blade. The interpretation being that we need one another in order to remain sharp in this life. The sharpening process produces sparks. This is true for relationships as well, and in our easily offended culture today, we don’t do much sharpening of one another.

2 – Our general disposition should be to bless others

Proverbs 3:28-30

Essentially, it is wrong to withhold help from a friend or neighbor in need. The context is within the community to those you know, not strangers asking for handouts. It is important to let your needs be known if there is a genuine need. The thing about over asking is that it creates relational difficulties.

Ephesians 4:28
Hebrews 13:16

So, the sweet spot, middle ground, balanced position is that we will work hard to provide for our family and to be able to give, and we will also be willing to ask for help when there is a need in our lives.

Proverbs 25:16-17
Proverbs 26:18-19

You can’t do harmful things to the people around you under the guise of joking. Harmful things are funny. They are destructive.

Proverbs 27:14

Our blessings must be done in the right way at the right time. This could also speak to the person who is socially unaware or naive.

So, the general teaching of all these verses is that we are to be a blessing to those around us.

3 – Truthful and gracious speech is required for a friendship

Proverbs 11:9

People can and frequently do use their mouths to destroy, but you don’t have to make that choice. Another teaching of this verse is that the wise person has enough knowledge to clearly identify and end the wrongs that are being spoken. Essentially, the wise function as peacemakers in a situation that is not their own.

Proverbs 16:28

This verse refers to a third party who destroys not his or her own friendships, but the friendships of other people. Be very careful about listening to the opinions and gossips that people offer up about your friends.

Proverbs 22:11
Proverbs 24:26

4 – Be aware that some people are destructive by nature.

Proverbs 15:18

This verse contrasts the hot-tempered person to the person who is slow get angry. Proverbs seems to assume that these people are simply who they are.

Proverbs 29:22

Proverbs again recognizes the simple fact that some people are angry, not about anything in particular, but rather their general disposition is one of angst. Anger in the community is not to be tolerated because anger is destructive.

5 – Restraint is necessary in maintaining the peace of the community.

Proverbs 19:11

Reality is that we are going to offend each other at some point. We are sinners. Good sense would make you patient in those situations.

Proverbs 26:20

Don’t put fuel on the fire.

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