As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27, verse 17.
This concept, of believers (especially men) sharpening each other, is a strong attitude within my church. Now, I’ve been a Christian (and a believer, understanding those two aren’t always the same thing) for most of my life. Even when I didn’t actively practice my faith, I never rejected it. I simply let it atrophy like a neglected muscle or an unused talent. Most of twenty years ago I was reintroduced to the faith through the sound doctrine and friendly teachings of a good pastor in a family church in Colorado Springs. My family left that church for awhile, in protest to some things with which we disagreed, but returned because we felt God had led us back there. In doing so, we dove deeper into spiritual truths and I felt my faith sink into me like strong roots.
Yet it wasn’t until just the last few years that I realized that strong faith is needed not just for witnessing. I mean, what are we supposed to witness for? Come to church and tithe? Please; give me a break! Join our club and sing off key? True but really quite lacking. Get in the know and get in the Word? Yes, but it’s not about me. No, all these things are off the mark. It took growing and being schooled by younger, stronger believers for me to see that we are to witness for Christ, for God among us, in a world hostile to that. For that to happen, we need to be razor sharp. We need to be spiritually, maybe even martially, prepared for war.
I think of this verse like I think of a sword being sharpened against a sharpening rod. Or a dull knife being honed sharp against a whetstone. Iron sharpens iron so that the implement can be used for its intended purpose. Sharpening happens for a reason, and it takes something firm, solid, reliable to sharpen a weapon, or a warrior, to a fine edge for war. The image comes to mind of Aragorn unsheathing his sharp sword and carrying battle to evil. Or Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. Or maybe of fighting against evil in some swashbuckling movie. Iron sharpens iron and for good reason.
And make no mistake about it, my friends: if you’re going to be in the faith, you need sharpening! If you are going to believe, follow, and do whatever God in His Spirit asks of you, you had better be sharp as a knife and ready to spiritually wield one. We are here to witness Him to others who don’t know Him. Set against us are the doom forces of evil who have been in chaos since Eden. They are real, they are poisonous and they are vicious fighters. If you’re going to go against them you need the shield of faith and the heart of a Godly warrior. And you need to be spiritually sharpened to a fine edge so that God through you can cut through evil like butter.
This is all fine rhetoric, but what does it really mean? To me, it means having other strong believers mentoring you, encouraging you, holding you accountable, and teaching you to stand, resist and make the damned Devil flee. That’s what the group within my church does. Being sharpened means having the conventional wisdoms of your faith shaken periodically by challenging teachings, things that open you up to letting God mold and re-mold you as He sees fit to do in order that you will be a spiritually lethal weapon ready for battle. And it means being encouraged to have steadfast, strong faith to stand against the petty evils of our day to day lives. When we surround ourselves with other believers who struggle like we do, we learn from each other, pray for each other, and support each other. When we devote our lives to learning, praise, and worship we become lightning hot weapons of light set against all too real forces of darkness. We have an edge, made sharp by the iron stone of the Lord which cannot be dulled no matter what the Serpent connives.
For most of my life, I learned the tenets of Law and Gospel and how both are necessary to faith, feeding and contributing to each other in a yin and yang circle of life. But I struggled with what to DO with it when faith called me to the works of living it out. God doesn’t need me to do anything for Him, but He wants me to be ready at any moment to submit to Him and go out into the world as His weapon of choice. I have learned over time that He wants me – and you – to be sharpened by true teachings, His teachings, administered and carried forward by strong believers. He wants us to build each other up, to ready each other for battle, and to be able to stand when the time for standing comes.
That time is coming; it may even be now. It will differ between us because you will witness different from how I do. Maybe it will be day to day, or maybe it will be with you and I being part of a larger struggle with titanic forces beyond our ken. Whatever form it will take, the time is coming, and He wants us to be sharpened by iron so that we will be ready for it.
Perhaps this verse is a challenge to you to find someone who sharpens you, someone who makes you a better you, who brings out the best in you and knocks off the rust of what isn’t. If you don’t have such a person, find one. Better yet, open your heart and your eyes to letting them find you, to letting God bring them into your lives. Then let the good hard work begin. You’ll find they make you better, stronger, and more confident in what you believe. You’ll find that the love of God in your heart becomes something you can more easily share with others, encouraging and sharpening them as you do so. All glory be to Him for that.