A False Friend is More Dangerous Than an Open Enemy

“Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth.” — Matt. 22: i6.

Is not this the language of a friend? No; it is too honeyed to be true; for in perusing the four Gospels I find nothing but slander and abusive expressions, by which the Pharisees endeavored to lower the honor and estimation in which Christ stood with the people. But to day they seem totally changed. This is the way of the world, to conceal the real meaning with honeyed words. It says: Never express your real thoughts. Say one thing and do another. I prefer an open and decided enemy to a false friend. I hate a man who has honey on his lips and poison in his heart, for we can easily guard against an open enemy, but not against a false friend. The wounds inflicted by an enemy are better than the kiss of a false friend; and the false friend ship of him who hates us is more dangerous than the sword of him who publicly persecutes us. Of this I shall speak to you to-day. A false friend is more dangerous than an open enemy. i. This is evident from Holy Scripture. {a) When Jacob with his family was on his way to Canaan, the messengers whom he had sent before him brought word to him, saying: ” We came to Esau, thy brother, and behold, he cometh with speed to meet thee with four hundred men. Jacob knowing that Esau, although his brother, was his sworn enemy, was greatly afraid, and in his fear prayed to God, saying: O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac; O Lord, who sayest to me: Return to thy land, and to the place of thy birth. With my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I return with two companies. But Esau, my brother, is going to meet me with four hundred men; if thou, O Lord, dost not deliver me from the hand of my brother, he will kill me, and the mother with the children. Having finished his prayer, he considered what means he might employ to gain his brother’s heart, and to avert his ill-feeling. And he set apart, of the things that he had, presents for his brother Esau, and sent them by the hands of his servants, saying to them: If you meet my brother Esau, and he ask you: Whose are these before you ? you shall say: Thy servant Jacob’s; he hath sent them as a present to thee, for he said: I will appease my brother with presents, perhaps I may find grace in his sight. Esau hearing this, was moved to compassion; he banished from his heart the bitter feeling he had entertained against Jacob, and ran to meet him, and em braced him, and kissing him, wept. Esau, whom Jacob had deprived of his father’s blessing; Esau, who entertained a deadly hatred against Jacob; Esau, who had sworn that he would destroy him, in an instant is changed from an enemy into a friend. Whence this sudden change? Jacob, hearing that Esau was coming with four hundred men to kill him, endeavored to mollify his angry brother with presents. Had Esau concealed his hatred under the cloak of friendship, Jacob would not have thought of appeasing him and sending him presents. Had Esau played the false friend instead of the open enemy. Jacob and all that were with him would probably have lost their lives. — Gen., chapters. 32, 33

(b) We have an example hereof in Cain and Abel. God accepted the offerings of Abel, but rejected those of Cain, who, seeing this, conceived so great a hatred in his heart against his brother, that he resolved to take his life. He concealed his hatred, however, under the mask of friendship and brotherly affection, saying to him: Let us go forth abroad. Abel, unsuspecting, consented, but when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother, and slew him. — Gen. ch. 4. On comparing the brothers Esau and Jacob with Cain and Abel, I find that in one thing they were alike, and in another they differed. Cain hated his brother Abel; Esau hated his brother Jacob; in this they resemble each other. Cain’s hatred was secret. Esau’s open and public; herein they differ. Esau was easily reconciled, because he was an open enemy; but Cain, who was a secret enemy, could not rest till he imbued his hands in his brother’s blood. There is this difference between open and secret enmity: the more open it is, the easier we may escape it; but the more hidden it is, the more injury it causes.

(c) There are but few open enemies to be found; but secret enemies are very numerous. In the 22nd chapter of the Third Book of Kings we read, that Achab, king of Israel, was preparing an army against the Syrians. Josaphat, king of Juda, voluntarily offered him assistance, for Josaphat thought he had a great friend in Achab; and without being asked, he united his army with that of Achab, and marched against the Syrians. But was Achab a friend of Josaphat? Achab said to Josaphat: Take armor, go into the battle and put on thy own garments. These words contain three points; the first two I find natural and just; but the third is rather suspicious: Take armor. Achab justly asks this of Josaphat, for as he offered his help it was but right that he should take armor. The second is: Go into battle; justice requires that he should not break his word; but the last words: Put on thy own garments, I cannot read without suspicion. Do garments gain the victory? Why did Achab insist that Josaphat shoud put on his own royal garments? The following words make me still more inquisitive. But Achab, the king of Israel, changed his dress. Why did Achab change his dress? Why did he not keep on his royal garments? Courtesy, politeness, and humility would not permit Achab to keep on his own royal garments. Josaphat had offered his services to Achab against the Syrians without being asked. Achab wished to show that he appreciated this act of generosity and friendship. If Achab would also go into battle, wearing his royal garments, there would be two kings and the honor of the one would naturally be diminished by that of the other. That this might not happen, Achab changed his dress and left all the honor to Josaphat. But was Achab a sincere friend? The Scripture says: “Achab changed his dress;” and I say, in changing his dress he changed his mind. Achab was not a friend, but a secret foe. Achab, under the appearance of friendship, told Josaphat to put on his own royal garments, not that he might be honored as king, but that the Syrians might recognize and kill him, which certainly would have occurred had not God protected him and ordained that Achab should be slain by a chance arrow. How many arrows would be required to wound false hearts!

(d) In the Gospel of St Luke (23 : 12) we read : ”Herod and Pilate were made friends together that same day; for before they were enemies one to another,’ How did that happen ! What produced in their minds so sudden and so extraordinary a change? Perhaps, the presence of the suffering Redeemer ? Pilate was a pagan, who believed Christ to be an innocent man, but not the Son of God. Herod was a Jew, but his belief was according to the perverted prudence of the world ; and as Christ did not gratify his curiosity by working a miracle before his eyes, he despised him! But, nevertheless, Herod and Pilate became friends. Pilate, being convinced that Christ was innocent, and having publicly proclaimed this conviction, did not know, especially as the populace demanded his death, whether he should set him at liberty or put him to death. He reasoned somewhat thus : If I set him free, I shall excite the ill-will and hatred of the populace against me. If I condemn him to death, I shall merit the displeasure of Caesar, because of the unjust sentence. To escape these two dangers, what does deceitful Pilate do? As if to leave to Herod the honor and power of pronouncing sentence upon Christ, he sent him to Herod, but his intention was to make Herod odious either to the people or to Caesar. But Herod was as deceitful as Pilate. He neither set Christ at liberty nor did he condemn him, but sent him back to Pilate, thinking within himself : Pilate may burn his fingers, I’ll not do it. Thus we see that their friendship consisted in trying to ensnare each other. This is the practice all over the world, not only among Jews and Gentiles, but also among Christians ; they outwardly pretend to be reconciled, but inwardly they are not, and only wait for a favorable opportunity to give vent to their feelings.

2. By the natural law we are forbidden to hate any one of our fellow-men, and Christ expressly commands us to love our enemies; but the world teaches and practises another doctrine, as David says: “Who speak peace with their neighbor, but evils are in their hearts.” — Ps. 27:3. Such friendship is like evergreen, the leaves of which have the shape of a heart; it cleaves to trees, as if it were united with them in love, whilst it sucks the sap out of them and kills them. Such friendship is like the apple of Sodom, which is beautiful to look at, but within there is nothing but ashes; it is like a pile of manure that is covered with snow; it is like a ditch that is covered with grass and creeping vines and lures the unwary traveler to destruction. St. Chrysostom says: “Friendship is so deceitful that it is often very difficult to distinguish a friend from a deadly foe; hence the greatest security is, not to confide in everyone as a friend.”

(a) We read in the fourth chapter of the Book of Judges, that Jahel went forth to meet Sisara, who was fleeing from the enemy, and said to him: “Come in to me, my lord; come in, and fear not. He went into her tent, and being covered by her with a cloak, said to her: Give me, I beseech thee, a little water, for I am very thirsty. She opened a bottle of milk, and gave him to drink, and covered him. Then Jahel took a nail and a hammer, and going in softly, and with silence, she put the nail upon the temples of his head, and striking it with the hammer, drove it through his brain fast into the ground; and so passing from deep sleep to death, he fainted away and died.” Dalila flattered Samson and deceived him with honeyed words till he’ revealed to her wherein his strength was, whereupon he was delivered into the hands of his enemies. Saul swore he would persecute David no more, but by his oath he only wished to make David believe himself secure, so that he could fall upon him suddenly. Absalom invited his brother Amnon to supper and gave his servants orders to kill him during the supper. Of all such false friends the wise man says in the Book of Proverbs: “A man that speaketh to his friend with flattering and dissembling words, spreadeth a net for his feet.” — 29: 5.

And,

3. True friendship has three qualities:

(a) Union of hearts,

(b) Manifestation of hearts.

(c) Help in necessities.

False friendship assumes the appearance of these qualities; but if we open our heart to a false friend and put him in possession of our secrets, what use will he make of them? He will laugh at us as fools because we cannot keep our own counsel: he will abuse our cordiality to our great injury and to his own advantage. A false friend will do all he can to injure us. All I can say is: Do not trust everyone who says that he is your friend. When Christ saw Nathaniel he said of him: “Behold an Israelite, indeed, in whom there is no guile.” — John, i: 47. How few are there in the world of whom we can truly say: Behold a friend in whom there is no guile. The number of such sincere friends is known to God alone; we cannot distinguish them, but experience teaches that there are many false friends.

4. “He that hath found a faithful friend, hath found a treasure.” — Eccles. 6: i4. It is dangerous and foolish to trust everyone. It is very difficult to distinguish a friend from a foe; and yet it is impossible to live without a friend. ” Blessed is he that findeth a true friend” {Eccles. 25: i2) to whom he can commit all the secrets of his heart without fear of being betrayed. But where is such a true and faithful friend to be found? In Him who said to Moses: “I am who am.” — Exod. 3: 14- God is our only true friend; and who would not desire His friendship, beyond all possessions, even beyond life itself? Let us put our confidence in Him alone, have recourse to Him alone in our difficulties and perplexities, and He will be our protector and comforter. We are the friends of God, and He will be our friend if we do what He commands, for He says: ” You are My friends, if you do the things that I command you.” — John, 15: 14., Live, then, according to the commandments of God and the precepts of his Church, and you will have God for your friend and a loving, affectionate father; and if God is your friend, you possess all that is worth possessing for time and eternity. peroration. Do not manifest your heart to every man. Heart and mouth must be one, so that whatever you say must be true ; but you need not say everything that is true, nor must you say everything you know. Do not commit the secrets of your heart to everyone, but keep them buried in your own heart, for it is better for you to bury them in your own hearts than to manifest them to a false friend, for if the world uses hypocrisy you must use prudence and precaution. Trust, but know in whom you can confide ; for all are not friends, even though they bear us gifts.

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