About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
Every spring I sharpen
my lawnmower blade with a metal file.
Of course, me being me, I sometimes sharpen a finger in the
process. You might call
sharpening my lawnmower blade metal sharpening metal, which leads me to Proverbs 27:17.
sharpens iron, so one person sharpens
This proverb isn't about
sharpening a lawnmower blade.
It's about two people sharpening each other, hopefully, without
cutting each other up in the process.
The Hebrew word "hadad"
translated as sharpen in Proverbs 27:17 suggests the process whereby one
becomes alert, keen, discerning, sensitive, perceptive, aware, and so on.
In other words, our interactions with each other fine tunes our
individual dispositions, causing us to be more alert, more perceptively
aware, more discerning, and more of what we need to be a productive
We all have our own
distinct personalities. None
of us act or think exactly alike. As
we interact with one another, our differences can be irritating.
They can grind away on our emotions, as my metal file grinds away at
my lawnmower blade. How we
respond to this grinding has consequential implications in our lives.
It can be productive or destructive.
It can make us mentally alert or mentally dull.
It can unite us or divide us.
It can make us sensitive or it can make us hardhearted.
On and on it goes.
All of this being said,
our differences often lead to damaging conflicts as we try to force others
to be like us. This is where
Ephesians 5:21 becomes important.
"Submit [yield] to
one another out of reverence for Christ."
In the midst of our differences, we are to yield to one another. That does not mean we cave into the unreasonable demands of another. It means we choose to enter a mutual supportive relationship whereby we attempt to understand each other's individual distinctives. We listen to one another, without interruption and without undue negative criticism. If we can succeed at this, both our individual personalities and our collective personality will undergo a sharpening, a fine tuning, causing us to be alert, discerning, sensitive, and so on. A perceptive awareness will prevail, paving the way for us to be the productive people we are meant to be. If we fail in this endeavour, a hard-heartedness, a dullness of mind, a lack of keen awareness will disable us from being that productive people of God. Instead of iron sharpening iron, it's a sword swinging away at another sword until crippling injuries disable us all.
We often think Proverbs 27:17 refers to a sharpening of beliefs, but that's not what the text states. It says one person sharpens another person, as in, we fine tune each other's temperaments. So, iron can sharpen iron when performed properly, and if not, the sharpening process will be damaging and disabling. It's how it works with my lawnmower blade and it's how it works with people.