This verse metaphorically speaks of man edifying, exhorting and uplifting his/her friends. It is comparative to iron because without iron being sharpened, it is dull, lacking luster and shine. Although it is still a knife, it is less effective and not very useful. Likewise as humans, without exhortation and encouragement from our peers, we become disengaged and less powerful for the Kingdom of God. When Christians are truly engaged in each other’s lives, there is a mutual edification that both strengthens and empowers the two to be fruitful and motivated in fulfilling the plans and purposes of God in their lives. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification,” Romans 14:19.
We have used this verse throughout our blog and it is definitely worth mentioning again. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” The threefold chord represents two people in a relationship who are in submission to God.
According to gotquestions.org, regarding iron sharpening iron, “The meeting of two people together in the Lord’s name will always guarantee blessing. It is a means of grace that the Lord Himself promised- “where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is among them, “Matthew 18:20.”” When we can come together and sharpen each other, despite differences, the Lord lends an ear from heaven in sweet pleasure. The author goes on to say that the fragrance of divine unity are best sensed in the relationship of Jonathan and David. As David was being pursued by Saul, Jonathan sought to help David find strength in God, 1 Samuel 23:16. The Apostle Paul also shares that we are to carry one another’s burdens and advise on how to best repent and rejoice in victory over it. James 2:8 mentions that we are exhorted to love one another.
From the beginning of the Bible to the end of the Bible, it speaks of relationship; Relationship between God and us and us with others. As we have said in previous blogs, God is a relational God. We are to portray that love and example Jesus shares with us to each other here on earth. Iron sharpening iron requires two people. One can stir himself up in the Spirit, but one simply cannot sharpen himself alone. That is why you must challenge one another to acquire the things of God you may be lacking and to exhort someone else and strengthen their spirit. Now as my sister and I learned, sharpening someone else is not always fun. We can definitely rub each other the wrong way, as they say, but is it really the wrong way or is it just uncomfortable because we recognize our own sin now? When we think of sharpening someone else, we tend to believe that we are just edifying, uplifting and encouraging them, loving on them and they just become these saints. That’s what that scripture always meant to me. In fact, until now my sister and I didn’t even realize how powerful that verse was. It’s one I think most of us read, get a happy feeling about and move on. But, oh God wants us to meditate on that and get so much more. It speaks of commitment through and through! If someone is to sharpen you and call out your sin (in love, of course), shouldn’t you be in relationship with them and trust them to point out the sin you cannot see in yourself? It speaks of covenant. I know for my sister and I, we have cultivated, nurtured and worked hard for the friendship we have. It is completely trusting and free. I know whatever my sister calls out in me, even the hard ugly stuff, is because she loves me and I trust her to do that. And if one of us is off or in sin, we are both ineffective in what we are called to do. This is where you cannot just rub yourself against anyone or multiple people. It’s meant for the one(s) you allow in your holy of holies only, which for my sister and I is just each other and our husbands.
Two people coming together in any relationship will both bring some sort of baggage, their own set of ways that are contrary to the other, past hurts, whatever it may be. Where relationships often go south is when we are unwilling to change our ways for the other. My relationship with my sister is far more important than the standards I set myself to live by. If I set certain rules for myself and yet they repel relationship, what good is it for me to be alone? My sister and I committed to sacrificing for each other and sometimes changing the ways one of us does something to be compatible for the other, to bring unity in our bond and it’s something we both learned to love to do and we see the benefits we reap.
I, for one carried a lot of insecurities, fears and anxieties into our friendship. They were very unhealthy. These fears and insecurities stemmed back from childhood and progressed throughout my adult life. They broke many friendships and relationships in my life and most people just walked out because they couldn’t handle it. But when God brought my sister to me, everything changed. I learned what sharpening meant! I didn’t like it at first, but I quickly saw how committed she was to our covenant and to me. Instead of throwing my insecurities in my face, she got down in the trenches with me to fight them, to literally call each one out, face them and kill them! This didn’t happen overnight, and honestly, we are still fighting some. But she has held my hand through every one of them, no matter how ugly they are, no matter how bad they hurt her too, no matter how outright bloody the fight is-she remains in the ring with me even taking punches for me! She’s not afraid to get dirty. I am safe to bleed all over her. When you are confident you have this kind of supernatural bond with someone, you feel free to dig in and face your fears. Because of her love and commitment, I slowly began to see how the Father saw me. I began to see who I was created to be and not what others showed me through rejection and abandonment. I saw the love of Christ through my sister, the commitment, sacrifice and risks she takes to sharpen me. And because I trust her, I am fully committed to repent of these insecurities and allow her to speak the truth in me, sharpening every edge and every part of me she sees dull. Often times, your best friend can see in you what you can’t see in yourself. That is why covenant is so important. This kind of trust does not happen in groups or fickle friendships. Where would I be right now if my sister had decided my baggage was too heavy for her the first time, the second time, the 10th time? Where can we learn commitment without longevity? Where can we learn trust if someone runs scared of your past?
We as humans are influenced by the people we admire and respect, and those are usually the people we flock to, whether good or bad. We have to be careful who we are allowing in our circle, who we are allowing to influence us. There is a difference between influence and sharpening! Influence is when we pick up the other person’s traits and take them on as our own. Sharpening is when the other person encourages us by challenging us, as well as motivate our desires in alignment with the Word of God. The one sharpening needs to be stronger in faith in the area they are sharpening you, and in wisdom, discernment and understanding, otherwise you can easily be led astray! As with my sister and I, we have different strengths and weaknesses, allowing us to both sharpen each other! That constitutes for a healthy relationship. According to Missionary Reverend Mike Keys, “The stronger always prevails over the weaker,” that’s the way of life. Our spiritual identity is confirmed by comparison. Our desire is to be an asset for the Kingdom, not a liability and we need sharpening by another Christian influence we trust in order to be all God has called us to be! “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses,” Proverbs 27:5-6. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” And the famous scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:33 which states, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
My sister and I are so thankful to have this bond that we have. We never let the sun go down without thanking God for this. It’s nothing we have ever experienced in our lives, yet something we both fight for every day. Whether I am doubting myself, backsliding on all the work we just overcame or struggling with internal insecurities, my sister can feel it also, and immediately jumps into prayer and vice versa. We always marvel in the fact that God has given us such an ability to be able to read each other’s hearts. I know when my sister is hurt or struggling and I have learned how to fight in the spirit on her behalf and sharpen her, as well. “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2. We are called to edify and encourage one another and sometimes it’s not all the pretty words we like to hear. Often times sharpening is the exact opposite! It’s the secrets you hid, hoping no one would see. It’s the fears you were able to get by living with for so many years, that no one else called you out on. It’s those things that your sister, your best friend can come in and call out to you, but say “Hey, we’re going to fight these off together if it takes the rest of our lives!” And one of the many great benefits of this covenant is through the sharpening, you become shiny, confident, your beauty is unveiled and you are now empowered to go and live the calling and purposes God has for you! When we sharpen one another, we become more effective in carrying out the plans and purposes God has for our lives because the time is short and there is much to do! “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:12.