“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17
We often use this passage when describing the importance of accountable relationships and living TOGETHER with one another. And it’s true that the way we respond to one another shapes us into the people we ultimately become. But the nature of this illustration (iron sharpening iron) requires us to make some applications to our lives that might be difficult. The way “iron sharpens iron” is for one piece to abrade the other. One piece deburrs the other, removes the rough edges, and makes it “keen” (as the same word is also translated). A blacksmith has the ability to shape iron by putting one piece into the fire until it is moldable and then striking it until the desired shape is formed; it still isn’t sharp until it is abraded in some way and sharpened into its final state.
God’s design for our growth is not for us to become abrasive and therefore fulfill His purpose in our neighbor. Nor is it to become those who will strike at each other to shape them. Remember, it is the hand of the blacksmith—one who approaches the situation with intentional purpose—who shapes the iron. God is going to use you to sharpen me…and me to sharpen you. We desperately need one another if we are to reach the ultimate design God has intended for our lives—it only happens TOGETHER.
“One another!” This is a term used over eighty times in the New Testament with dozens of these occurrences specifically dealing with how we, as believers, relate to each other. We are told in Romans 12 to “be kindly affectionate to one another;” and to “be of the same mind toward one another.” Galatians 6 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Colossians 3 says, “do not lie to one another,” and 1 Thessalonians 5 says to “comfort each other and edify one another.” 1 Peter 4 says to “be hospitable to one another” and as “you have received a gift, minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” And 1 John 1 says to “have fellowship with one another.” Fellowship, kindness, honesty, hospitality, even ministering to and praying for one another—that doesn’t sound too difficult…but it’s just the beginning.
Roman’s 12 also tells us, “in honor give preference to one another,” and the next chapter tells us to “love one another”. In chapter 14 we’re told to “not judge one another.” Galatians 5 says, “through love serve one another” and not to “provoke one another or envy one another.” Honor, love, serve, don’t provoke, judge, or envy—this is getting more difficult.
In Ephesians 4, we’re told to “forgive one another,” and in chapter 5 it says to “submit to one another in the fear of God”. And then James 5 says to “confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another.” Forgiveness, submission, confession, and prayer? The bar truly has been raised!
Then to top it all off Romans 15 says to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us.” That was done just as I was. Christ received me while I was yet a sinner and He died for me (Romans 5:8). He paid my debt that I might have eternal life. I didn’t have to strive to achieve some goal before I could receive what Christ had to offer me—the offer was that He would receive me just as I was and then mold me, shape me, and sharpen me. We have the same responsibility to receive each other just as we are. The sharpening will happen as we move on.
So, take a good look around you. That person sitting there is “one another.” You and I are in this TOGETHER—and together is the only way we will thrive—or even survive. That person sitting by you is the one you are to love, serve, and prefer—and yes, even receive with all of the imperfections that are not yet worked out. Amazing that God will accept them with those rough edges, isn’t it? Equally amazing is that God will accept me with my rough edges. We’re all here TOGETHER, accepted as we are, to be shaped by the hand of the Lord—with intentional purpose as the blacksmith…and then sharpened by our relationships with one another.
Let’s make the decision to become the instrument used in the hand of the Lord to sharpen one another, allowing each other to become what God intends. The only way we can do that is to determine to live and grow TOGETHER. That’s the name, and intent of the new series we’ll embark on beginning on May 31. I pray that you’ll join us for these important messages as we learn to be TOGETHER as a church. So, let’s decide TOGETHER to be shaped by each other so that we, too, can have His ultimate purpose fulfilled in us.