Open Rebuke is better than secret love, says the scriptures (Pr 27:5), but is it saying that open rebuke is best, or that it is even loving?
Is this the most excellent way?
The Secret is in the Opposing
This is a proverb, and as a proverb, it is imparting wisdom by juxtaposing something is (or that sounds) bad against something that is (or that sounds) good. In this case, secret love is not as good as an open rebuke. This is in no way saying that open rebuke is better than love. The secret of this proverb is in the opposing of secret vs. open.
It is saying that even something as bad as rebuke is better than love if the love is hidden (in secret) while the rebuke is exposed (in the open). That is the wisdom here. To misuse this verse as an excuse to openly rebuke people is not the peaceable wisdom that comes from above (James 3:15-17) and it lacks understanding into God’s ways (Isa 55:8). It’s telling us that we are not to hide our love (Jn 13:1).
Open love is better than any rebuke. Open love is best, it is the more excellent way (1Cor 12:31 as an introduction to 1Cor 13:1-13). Where is the open love? Don’t show me your open rebuke, show me your open love.
Fruit of the Reprover
The test of this rebuke and the rebuker is by the fruit it produces (Mt 7:20). The fruit will determine whether it is rebuke or scorn or mocking. Remember, an identifier of mockers (scorners) is that they will not accept rebuke themselves and they hate those who try to admonish them. Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise (Pr 15:12). He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee (Pr 9:7-8).
- Does the Rebuker accept rebuke or do they hate and resist it? (Pr 15:12).
- Does this Rebuker have a track record of practicing isolation or avoiding the wise and preferring the wicked? (Pr 15:12)
- Does the Rebuker shame you and give you a blot if/when you try to rebuke them? (Pr 9:8-7)
- Does the Rebuker hate those that rebuke them? (Pr 9:8-7)
If so – you’re not dealing with a Rubuker, you’re dealing with a scorning mocker (Pr 15:12; Pr 9:8-7).
Where you have these reactions – you have a scorner, not a rebuker. Do they receive a negative reaction from their audience? Could it be their perverse mind and heart? He that is of a perverse heart shall be despised. An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, (Pr 12:8, 27).
When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest. (Pr 29:9 NASB)
Fruit of Favor
He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue (Pr 29:23). Likewise, the fruit of favor shows that rebuke was given (not scorning). This is what life-giving rebuke does (Pr 15:31). It doesn’t harm. Scorning mockers harm and their arrogance in this matter stir up more strife (Pr 28:25; Mt 7:20). Scorners are known for many things like their tongue of fire that sets the people on fire (Jam 3:6; Pr 29:8). These scoffers stir up a coming destruction and wrath (Pr 17:19). This is the talk of their lips (their speech betrays them).
Now, determine what you are hearing; rebuke or scoffing (which comes from mockers)?
Scoffers set a city afire [inflaming the minds of the people], but wise men turn away wrath. (Pr 29:8 AMPC)
And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body. And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster. (Jam 3:6 TLB)