Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
One good book written by Christians about how to watch movies as a Christian makes the claim that the reason why superhero movies are so popular is because American culture today has given up on real solutions to real problems. They claim that this gives rise to the tendency to look to the fantasy superhero to do the dirty work for a nation who is impotent in the face of danger and/or evil.
I don’t know if I buy that analysis, but I do appreciate the attempt to interpret popular culture from a Christian perspective. I also think that it is actually not such a bad thing to have heroes, neither in a Greek pagan sense of offspring of the gods nor in the comic book sense. I do think there is something to be said for having a hero as role model, example or mentor.
This Proverb actually suggests that people can be heroes, role models, even mentors, in a sense, to one another. Iron sharpens iron and one man (person) can sharpen another person. How do we do that? How do we “sharpen” one another?
Perhaps, before we answer that question, we need to ask what it means to be “sharp” as a Christian. I don’t think that it means, necessarily to be particularly intelligent, or witty, or clever, or well-dressed, as in “you look sharp today.” Rather to be sharp as a Christian is to be aware, awake, equipped. To be sharp means to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you. To be sharp means to be wise as a serpent, but innocent as a dove. To be sharp means to be ready for the return of the Savior who may come at any time. To be sharp means not to be gullible; not blown here and there by every wind of doctrine. To be sharp means not to follow the crowd in doing evil. To be sharp means to be dressed in the full armor of God.
Finally, to be sharp, I think means, in some sense, to be on the cutting edge. Now, I don’t mean cutting edge in the sense of being innovative, or creative, or avant garde just for the sake of it. Rather, I mean cutting edge in the sense of being counter-cultural, going (cutting) against the grain, as it were. To mix the metaphor, Christians are to be cutting edge sharp in a way analogous to being salt and light. Sharp is to bear witness to the coming of the kingdom and to work, to strive, to be a part of that coming.
So, how do we sharpen one another? One piece of iron can only sharpen another piece of iron as the two come into contact with each other. We need to come into contact with one another. We need to step into each other’s lives if we are going to sharpen one another. And the nature of this contact may very well set off some sparks! We will not sharpen one another in the way described above if our conversation never goes deeper than mere pleasantries. To sharpen one another we need to step into each other’s lives and speak the truth, in love of course, but the truth even when it is hard to speak and hard to hear.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend in stark contrast to the kisses of an enemy. That spoken truth, however, is not our own wisdom. That truth that we must speak to one another is the Word of God, which itself, is sharper than a two-edged sword. We get to be the instruments, but it is the Spirit as he applies the word that truly sharpens.
Be a hero today. Be an Iron Man. Step into somebody’s life for their benefit, speak the truth of God’s word to them in love, tell them what they need to hear, that no one else wants to say. But beware! Somebody may have something to say to you as well. Be sharp! Be sharpened!