To Rebuke a Friend


A perfect place for a quiet conversation.

Therefore, as St. Ambrose says, “if you perceive any vice in your friend, correct him secretly; if he will not listen to you, correct him openly. For corrections are good and often better than a friendship which holds its peace. And even though your friend think himself wronged, nevertheless correct him. Even though the bitterness of correction wound his soul, nevertheless cease not to correct him. For the wounds inflicted by a friend are more tolerable than the kisses of flatterers. Therefore, correct the erring friend.” Ambrose, quoted in Aelred of Riveaux, Spiritual Friendship, Book 3, Section 106.

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” ~ James 4:4

We are called into friendship with God. Through that friendship with God we are called into friendship with one another as the Church. It is therefore our duty–as friends–to rebuke one another when we stray. To rebuke secretly, then openly–to speak the truth rather than maintain a false peace. And here, as I see it, is the difficult point: if I keep silent about a place of abuse, error, falsehood, or sin in my fellow Christians–and if I do this under the impression that I am maintaining a peace that is more important than conflict–then I have shifted from friendship with God to friendship with the world. I have set my idea of peace above God’s idea of peace, my idea of friendship over God’s idea of friendship, my idea of truth over God’s idea of truth. In short, my peace and unity have become obstacles to right relationship with God, and in false friendship I have violated my own faith.

To put this another way: the only place there is true peace is in the truth of Christ. If we walk away from that truth, there cannot be, will never be, peace, because we will have walked away from Christ.


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