A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
Guard all your friendships and relationships carefully. Keep peace with great diligence. Avoid every disagreement and offence that you possibly can. If you cannot avoid them all, then settle them quickly. But be especially careful with those you are closest to.
The proverb seems extreme. Is it this difficult to reconcile an offended brother? Is there so little hope of recovery once a close relationship is damaged? Strong cities are seldom taken, and castle bars are of the strongest sort. Solomon’s inspired wisdom teaches that once you offend a brother, you are near a hopeless situation. Lord, have mercy!
What causes the rupture to be so severe? It is a rule of nature that offending those who love you may create hatred and revenge. Because they gave you their affection, loyalty, service, and trust, the offence strikes deeper in their soul and requires more repair than if done by merely an acquaintance or stranger. So be extra careful with those closest to you.
Small offences can ignite family or marital feuds, though such little things could be easily ignored in other relationships. It is a disgusting fact of man’s perversity that he often shows less mercy to family and friends than to strangers. Most find it easier to forgive a stranger than forgive someone they have loved and assumed would never hurt them.
Consider offences between brothers in Scripture. Cain killed Abel out of envy at Abel’s goodness. Esau sought to kill Jacob for obtaining the blessing he had given away. Joseph’s envious brothers sold him into slavery. Absalom plotted two years before killing Amnon for raping his sister. The tribes of Benjamin and Judah both feuded with Israel.
Barnabas and Paul had a sharp contention about taking Mark on their second preaching trip (Acts 15:36-41). Paul, the most diligent apostle, could not forget Mark’s desertion on their first trip (Acts 13:13). Barnabas, Mark’s uncle, was offended by Paul’s rejection of his sister’s son (Col 4:10). Two great saints, who had been close companions, now went their separate ways (Acts 9:27; 11:25; 13:1-2; 14:14; 15:2,25,35). Lord, have mercy!
The wisdom here is to avoid offences with brethren, especially in the church (Eph 4:3,16; Rom 14:16-19; Jas 3:18). Since a close relationship is difficult to recover from offences, it is better to avoid such conflicts in the first place. Use great caution dealing with friends, lest a line be crossed that destroys or scars the relationship, especially in the church.
If you have offended a brother, it is your duty to be reconciled as quickly as possible (Matt 5:23-26). If you even think someone might be offended, go and be reconciled to them. If you have been offended, it is your duty to overlook the transgression or at worst follow an orderly procedure to solve it (Pr 19:11; Matt 18:15-17; I Cor 6:1-8; I Pet 4:8).
The proverb is a natural law. It does not justify godly men being slow to forgive their offenders. Nor does it justify godly men giving up the pursuit of a wounded brother. A spiritual man does not live by natural laws. He lives by the Spirit of God, which teaches him to be slow to wrath and quick to forgive (Col 3:12-13; Jas 1:19). One brother that will always forgive you is the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess your faults to Him every day.