Here is a proverb that is not difficult to understand, nor is it hard for us to see the ramifications of it in our everyday lives. We've all been in a situation where either we have offended someone, or we've been the offended party. We also all know how difficult it can be to remedy those situations. Therefore today's proverb just helps us see it in a word picture that is very descriptive and instructional.
The brother who is offended is harder to be won back to us than a strong city. The literal Hebrew here of the "strong city" is a walled city. To understand this we have to go back to days before there were air forces or artillery shells that could level a wall or a house. In those days a high, strong wall around a city was a formidible defense. When an army went within such a walled city, it was going to be very difficult to defeat them. The victorious strategy in these circumstances would involve a long seige of the city. It would involve starving the people until their ability to resist would be broken. It would also involve a final assault on the wall and the gates where they would be broken through - then the victory was assured. But such a seige might take months - and some of the more famous ones took even longer than a year. Therefore, when a brother is offended - he becomes like that walled city to our attempts to gain his trust and friendship again. That is why Proverbs 17:14 warns us that the beginning of a quarrel is like breaching a dam - therefore abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. Abandon your offensive actions and words - because if they come to the point of greatly offending someone, it will be very difficult to remedy the situation.
The second statement speaks of the bars of a citadel. The citadel was the place, usually at the center of the city where a large fortified tower was. It usually was high and barred. It had large stores of food and weapons for a last stand. If all else failed, the last people of the city would go here to try to make a last ditch stand against those who had breached the walls of the city. It was usually the place they would go to fight to the death - to the very last man.
Here is the picture shown to us about offending a brother. It is the one that warns us against having contentions, fights if you will, with a brother. Thus, we have MORE than just high walls to scale to overcome the problem of our brother being offended. We have to deal with the fact that even after we've breached the walls - they may retreat to the citadel to resist us to the bitter end. What a reminded to do all we can to be kind and gentle, loving and gracious, and patient and longsuffering in our dealings with our brothers. Too many don't practice such things and wind up seriously offending someone with their words or their actions. They don't think about the back end of such actions and choices. They don't consider how difficult this is going to be to fix. They don't see the walls being erected and the citadel of the heart being fortified against them. They are blind to all this - and blunder on in their offensive statements and actions. They are not wise in quickly diffusing arguments and abandoning quarrels. The sad result is broken relationships and long term bitterness in their familiies and with former friends.
Be wise, dear brothers and sisters, and see the value of being gracious and kind when you face a difficult relational situation. See the value of a long-term relationship with the other person rather than just wanting to win that particular argument. Realize that confrontation - even biblical, godly confrontation is something that needs to be approached in love - speaking in love - and acting in love. That may require hard words - but it seeks to avoid hard feelings. It helps us to enter into the problem with our eyes wide open not just to what we want solved, but even more importantly to the person with whom we want to solve them. We never need to forget that we work with people and want them to know two things more than anythinig else. Those two things are that God loves them and that no matter what the problem is - the answer ultimately will involve God's grace. With this is mind we need to respond both lovingly and graciously in all we say and do. That way we won't have to face a lengthy love siege in order to win back our brother.