Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Iron – Hebrew puns are not obvious in translation, but once you know them, a deeper meaning appears. Here the word “iron” has two meanings. The first instance is a reference to a sword or knife. The second is to a sharpening stone. In Hebrew, the “face” of a blade is sharpened by bringing it against another form of “iron”, the stone. Then we encounter the pun. The friend acts like a sharpening stone in the same way, bringing a honed edge to the “face” of a man.
How does one man sharpen another? Solomon has just mentioned one of the methods – the faithful wound. A man who maintains a hard line of truth will act as the whetting stone for his friend by constantly calling him back to alignment with God. That has very practical applications. A good friend pulls you out of harm’s way, even when you are tempted to just take a quick look. A good friend offers godly counsel when you have a decision to make. A good friend holds you accountable to your previous oaths and commitments. A good friend sticks with you when you are struggling, not to reprimand, but to lift you to the place of repentance and forgiveness. A good friend challenges you to think deeper, act wiser and feel more intensely. Everyone needs a friend with sharpening qualities.
Jesus is your friend – if you are His disciple. That raises an interesting question. Does your interaction with Jesus sharpen you? Do you find yourself challenged, confronted, rescued and queried by Jesus? Is He the kind of friend who calls you back, straightens you out, pulls you along, gives you a push, offers sound advice and holds your hand? Or is He a man in a book, a voice from the past, someone who holds up a standard that seems unattainable? So often we don’t see Jesus as a friend. He is the head of the church, the model of godliness, the Son way up there at the top, far removed from our daily living. That’s all true. Jesus is the first and the last, the chosen One, the Redeemer. But He says that He is my friend – and if that is true, then I need to look for His interactions in the sharpening process. By the way, being ground to a fine point is painful, but necessary. What good is a “friend” who never offers any resistance to my tendency toward self-deluding egoism?
Read the gospels again. Look at the friendship of Jesus. You will find a man who sharpens others. You will find a different kind of hero than the one usually portrayed in Sunday School. You will discover a Jesus who pushed, pulled, fought, found, challenged and chastised. Jesus gives us a picture of a true friend. Is that the kind of friend you are? Are you comfortable with godly sword play?