There are certainly many ways to keep friendships strong, and this bleat will only look at two of them. We learn these from a proverb:
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9
The two ways are built into this one proverb, opposites of each other. The first way we keep our friends is to
This section in the proverbs contrasts good from bad. Here’s the good part of this particular proverb: whoever covers an offense. The word translated “covers” here can have the sense of forgiveness, and that’s a major part of it. On top of that, there’s also a sense of concealing another’s sins once forgiven. In other words, it’s forgiving them and then putting it away, so as to not hold a grudge for the forgiven sin.
And the person who does that seeks love. This is a quality that all children of God should want. We want to be one who is known not for seeking strife, but seeking after love.
This is sometimes easier said than done, especially if the sin is particularly grievous. And depending on the sin, there might need to be some time to let major wounds heal. This is not about pretending that everything is fine, but seeking after such a peace between people, especially brothers and sisters in Christ.
The most helpful way to overcome barriers to covering offenses is to remember that it is God through Jesus who did it first for us. Christ sought love and covered the offenses of all who believe in Him. And our being forgiven for a multitude of sins should make it easier to forgive others for their sins against us. So, to keep our friends, we forgive, and secondly, we should
2. Keep silent
A common theme in the proverbs is that silence is next to wisdom. There are definitely times when we must not be silent, but there are times when it is better that we hold our tongues. This is why the negative part of the proverb says, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
This repeating is either talking about continually bringing it up with the offender, showing that you have indeed not forgiven them, or it’s talking about repeating it to others. Either way, the consequences are bad.
The person who keeps bringing up an offense to another, after it’s already been repented of, will alienate that person and thus lose their friend. And the person who spreads the offense to other people will cause those other people to alienate themselves from the offender.
This is the opposite of covering an offense and thus the opposite of seeking love.
Now, there are times when it is necessary to bring up an old offense in order to illustrate a pattern of behavior. And there are times when others must be made aware of someone’s sin, for accountability or protection. But as a general principle, the best thing to do when someone offends us is to forgive them, cover their sin, and not speak of it any more. If we do that, we will seek love and avoid separating close friends.