A powerful verse in the Bible declares, as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). Although true, I admittedly once held a one-sided perspective to this proverb that assumed this “sharpening” process was primarily a pleasant and harmonious one. I now realize however that occasionally this refining can feel more arduous than harmonious. Obviously, two can sharpen each other with encouragement and support, but what about those times when believers conflict and/or challenge each other? Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily – for even though it might be awkward and uncomfortable at times, these less than harmonious encounters with other believers can prove to be quite positive for all involved and for several reasons:
Confronts: Imagine the amount of force and friction required for a piece of iron to sharpen another. It’s not delicate. Likewise, it may be another believer is placed in our life in order to scrape away our biases, insecurities and pride – and when this occurs, it’s not typically entertaining, or enjoyable (Matthew 18:15). Yet, the outcome, if we’re honest and in prayer about it, usually results in realizing the existing deficit in our character. Which, if left unchecked, could have resulted in significant damage to our witness and testimony.
Challenges: We are also sharpened when another believer challenges our judgments, prejudices and/or legalities. At first, we may jump to defend our ways, but when carefully considered and prayed over, we soon discover these encounters can serve to reveal hidden errors, that when corrected, improve both our witness and our walk (Luke 12:2).
Changes: Ultimately, as we are sharpened, we are changed (Ephesians 4:17). Our testimony becomes more potent and our witness grows more impactful. In addition, we may also discover the one God used to sharpen us has also been sharpened and changed for the better through their encounters with us.
Application: “Better By Two” – Ecclesiastes 4:9
Clearly, God’s children need not always fuss and fight to make progress, for we are called to love and serve one another. However, there are times, when believers may become the blunt tools God uses to better His flock. We see this when Paul and Barnabas disagreed over Mark and the disciples debated over who was greatest. These fellow believers were used to reveal the errors and the truth necessary to make the improvements desired by God for each individual – and thankfully, the same process can work for us today as we seek God in all our ways.