About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Iron Sharpens Iron   


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.


"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."


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 people. 


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.   

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