The Kingdom of God is the key to understanding an apparent paradox
An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT
The Bible is about the kingdom of God, meaning the rule and domain of God, through various eras. It was only when Jesus came and was beginning His ministry that He began to speak about the kingdom of God, and then God’s purpose came into sharp focus:
"... Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," He said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:14-15
What was the good news? Simply that, because Jesus the Son of God had come, God’s just order, called the kingdom of God, had become near and personal for ordinary people. This was a change from God’s justice proclaimed by specially anointed people, prophets, and a handful of wise kings. The thread running from the beginnings through the law of Moses, the psalms and wisdom literature and the vision of prophetic preachers was now encapsulated in a person who understood everyday life and its rigours, and offered ways of changing them for the better — miraculously, at times.
Jesus spent three years teaching about the kingdom of God. He established the kingdom of God and left it as His legacy, by dying a sacrificial death on the Cross. And He promised the Holy Spirit, who would give birth to this new rule and reign of God, in our hearts and lives and enable us to grow in it
The church, the believing, gathered people of God, is not the kingdom of God (even if at times it has behaved as thought it is) but that gathered body of believers is its agent — the means of making it known. The church (since medieval times) does not control the Bible or its teaching, which describes the kingdom of God. Nor does it control he worship of God, the expression and praise of the kingdom -- but gathered Christians certainly greatly facilitate it.
So to ask, what does it mean in the kingdom of God, that it is "better to be corrected openly if it stems from hidden love... you can trust... a friend who wounds you with his honesty" (TPT) is like asking what God is saying to us through it.
We don’t need to study for long, how Jesus taught about the kingdom He was beginning to set in place, without realising that trusting, mutually accepting relationships are a big part of it. We who believe Him are charged with loving God, loving others, and even loving others who are not like us. In this context, we can be honest with one another — and whether we are offering a correction, or hearing it for ourselves, we shouldn't fear a rift.
In God’s order of things, the way He has set out for us to live (and Jesus’ teaching of it): this is about the way we relate together.
It’s not helpful to see this through a legalistic lens which reduces it to commands we must do and rules we ought to follow. Rather, see this through the empowering lens which reveals how God helps us to live right by His kingdom principles. The moment we sincerely turn to Jesus and ask Him into our lives, He gives us the Holy Spirit — the gift to all who believe in Jesus -- who is like a coach on the inside of us, helping us to get it right, keeping us connected with God’s love flowing through us, so that we are enabled to be generous and forbearing with other people.
And free to be talk about it honestly... when things go a bit wrong.
And that’s the message of our verse, right there.