Enemy Or Friend Galatians 4:16

So then am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? - Galatians 4:16

This is a question St. Paul asked some of his friends in Galatia. He had been telling them some plain truths about themselves and they didn’t like it. Paul cared for them too much to see them going astray without trying to stop them. But the Galatians “took the huff.” They said that Paul had become their enemy, that he no longer loved them since he said such unkind things about them. They were just like so many petted babies.

I think a great many of us resemble these foolish Galatians. We don’t care to be told our faults and we get angry with the people who tell us them. So long as people say nice things about us we are quite sweet, but when they begin to find fault with us we take offence. We are like the cardinal who was one day making confession to a monk, as they do in the Roman Catholic Church. He began by saying that he was the “chief of sinners,” and the monk agreed with him. Then he went on to say that he had been guilty of every kind of sin. The monk replied that this also was true. Once more he said that he had indulged in pride, ambition, malice, and revenge. Again the monk replied that undoubtedly he had done so. At this the cardinal lost his temper. “Why, you fool,” he said, “you don’t suppose I mean all this to the very letter!”

Are we not often very like that cardinal? We don’t mind confessing our faults, but it is a different matter when other people agree with us or when they begin to point out those faults.

Of course it is very silly to behave in this way. It is like smashing a mirror because it shows us we are plain-looking. The fault is not in the mirror, it is in ourselves. Sometimes our parents point out our faults, sometimes our teachers, sometimes our friends. They don’t like doing it, but they do it because they see we are spoiling ourselves. They want us to make the very best of ourselves and we should be grateful to them, instead of resenting their plain-speaking.

1. So you will notice first that those who tell us faithful but unpleasant truths are our friends, not our enemies. They wish us well and are too concerned for our good to flatter us. The people who are really our enemies are those who say pleasant untrue things.

Do you remember the old, old fable of the fox and the crow? The crow had stolen a bit of cheese out of a cottage window and he flew up to a tree to enjoy it, when along came Mr. Fox. Now, Mr. Fox saw that bit of cheese and he particularly wanted it, so he immediately set about trying to get it. He sat down under the tree and began by telling the crow that her feathers were most beautifully white and that her figure was more graceful than that of any other bird. Then he went on to say that he was sure such a handsome bird must have a lovely voice and that he would like to hear her sing. The silly crow was so flattered that she opened her beak to sing. And out fell the cheese, which was immediately gobbled up by Mr. Fox.

The people we should really avoid are those who, like the fox in the story, tell us that the black things in our character are white and the ugly things are beautiful. Often they flatter us to serve their own ends. They do us no good and they generally wish us no good.

2. There is one very good friend who tells us plain and unwelcome truths about ourselves. Often we refuse to listen to this friend, but when we act in that way we are very foolish. For the voice of this friend grows fainter and fainter each time we refuse to listen to it, and some day, if we go on refusing, it will cease to speak altogether. Then we shall be in a very sad case indeed. I wonder if you have guessed the name of this friend? Some people call it Conscience, but others call it the voice of God.
There is an eastern legend about a wonderful ring that was presented to a prince by a great magician. This ring possessed an unusual quality. If the prince acted rightly the ring was like other rings, but if he did a wrong thing or cherished a bad thought, it contracted and hurt his finger.

Conscience is just like that magic ring. If we do wrong it hurts, but its hurts are the hurts of a friend, and when it stops hurting it means that the best part of us is dead.

God has given us each a conscience to be our helper and our guide. Don’t treat yours as an enemy, cherish it as your best friend. For if you listen to its voice and obey its counsels it will lead you at last home to God.