Distinguishing a spur from a dagger is not just important for preserving friendships, but is also a sign of spiritual maturity.
One thing is for sure: belonging is necessary. We belong with each other and we need each other. We need each other for wisdom, counsel, encouragement, perspective, support, inspiration, loyalty, faithfulness and to push us.
Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of experiencing the jab of a friend—the times when we feel the prick of their words and actions—and it doesn’t feel good. That sharp prick can be one of two things: a spur or a dagger. There is a big difference between a “spur in our side” and a “stab in our back.”
Many of us know the pain of a dagger in the back when we lose the trust of a friend through betrayal, dishonesty and disloyalty. We trusted them and they chose to stab us in the back. But the purpose of spurs is different than the purpose of daggers when it comes to friendships. A dagger’s purpose is to stop forward motion by killing the opposition, but a spur’s purpose is to unleash potential. A spur’s purpose is to unleash the capacity in an animal to go farther and faster.
Both are sharp and inflict pain, but one is concerned about moving friendship forward, and the other is concerned about stopping friendship altogether. That’s why God is clear that we must “consider” or “to think carefully before making a decision” when you feel the prick and the pain in a relationship.
I think too many relationships have ended prematurely because the pain of a spur was mistaken for a dagger in the back. A friend’s purpose is to push you past your hurt, past your pain and past your “past” so that you can run in such a way not just to gain ground, but to win.
We need friends to challenge us.
We need friends who we can be transparent with.
We need friends who we have been given permission to call it like they see it.
We need “Nathans.”
David needed a Nathan who challenged him and was given permission to access his life to speak to him in a way that no one else could (2 Sam.12). Nathan showed David the error of his ways. This friendship was not only reliable and trustworthy but centered on God. Making Nathan’s wisdom and counsel not just emotional and to the point, but saturated with God’s wisdom and authority. That’s when David’s perspective shifted back to God’s perspective.
Sometimes friends tell us what we don’t want to hear. The question is are you listening?
Alan Pastian is a campus pastor at River Valley Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, an Outreach 100 church (No. 23 Fastest-Growing, No. 46 Largest). For more: AlanPastian.com