Monday, October 3, 2011

Iron Sharpens Iron

Have you ever heard or read something that you have heard or read so many times that you glossed over it. As I was reading this week I came across a familiar verse, a verse I have heard and read so many times I have long lost count. You will probably say the same once you read it:
Proverbs 27: 17- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Great verse to speak to one another as long as no one is too tough on the other. As long as no one's feelings get hurt it is a great verse to repeat. As long as all you are doing is encouraging someone to get with the program but you don't press them too hard, right!

However, (there is that word again!) this time when I read the verse it jumped off of the page. Why? Why today, why this time when I have read it so many times before? I think it has to do with my interaction over the past couple of weeks with other brothers in the faith. Over the last couple of weeks I have had some interactions with some brothers with whom I do not see eye to eye with on the issue of helping those in need. We have had some discussion back and forth as to whether or not we should or should not help those who are less fortunate than us. We have been bantering back and fourth the topic of whether or not helping hurts. I have been encouraging them to get involved in living out their faith but it has been less than fruitful.

So what does this have to do with iron sharpening iron. What jumped out at me this time was that any time iron sharpens iron there is friction involved as well as heat. Iron rubbing on iron is not a feel good process. If you want to see what this feels like just get out of your car after your drive somewhere and put your finger on the disk of your front brakes! (ok, don't really do that because I don't want anyone trying to sue me for severe burns on their finger tips) The point is that if we are going to be iron and try to sharpen one another there will probably be some friction and heat involved if we are doing it right.

I want to show you an example of iron sharpening iron, not just a pat on the back or a wow that was a convicting sermon now lets get something to eat but a heat and friction generating confrontation:
Galatians 2: 11-14 - 11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul was not trying to embarrass Peter he was stepping into a situation that could have led many astray and could have caused Peter to lose some if not all of his credibility. I think Paul confronted Peter publicly for a couple of reasons. First, he used this as a teaching moment. Verse 14 says "I said to Peter in front of them all" I think Paul wanted those present to see how to confront someone as well as to understand what mistake was being made. Secondly I think Paul was showing others that living out their faith would require confrontation. We will not always live in perfect harmony with everyone. We have a responsibility to speak up when others who profess faith in Christ miss the mark either in their walk or their teaching. Let me show you one more verse that rarely gets taught in churches these days.
I Corinthians 5: 12, 13 -  12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” 
My point in all of this is that sometimes we may have to say things we don't want to say, we may have to do things we don't want to do when it comes to confronting a Brother or Sister in the faith who we think has stepped out of line or is not living up to what God has called us to do. In the end if we are closely involved in the lives of other Believes and there is no heat being generated in our relationships we may need to ask each other if we are really interested in being sharpened or are we content with being dull.


  1. I was trying to think of something confrontational to write to illustrate your point, but I can't. I guess you've sharpened me today. Thank you, brother.

    Manifest Blog

  2. Wow, I just got off the phone with my mom. She and I were discussing the very verse about Paul addressing Jews and Gentiles etc. Guess God's got a message in there for me today :)

    Great devotion today! I have not thought of Iron sharpens iron in that way either but your point is well made. Sometimes we need a little conflict so we know where we truly stand on things too.

    And sometimes, I have realized that we have to have several sides to discussions and issues because if we all thought along the same exact lines, areas of need would be missed. Thanks for so much food for thought!

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God