Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Scripture makes it clear that each of us has an important role – to serve as a sharpening agent in the lives of others. In one word – equipping. Just as iron is sharpened for a purpose, our lives are sharpened by each other for a purpose. Sharp iron is not meant to be left on the shelf but to be used for a purpose. But this can only happen once the iron is sharp and that happens through our interactions with each other.
Before we can be sharpened we must be forged. Gordon MacDonald in his book Christ Followers in the Real World talks about his visit to a blacksmith’s shop. He talks about the, “dumpy old shack with an open front, bits and pieces of metal stacked or shelved everywhere.” When you look at those stacks of metal you cannot help but realize the potential that lies on the shelf. There are so many things the blacksmith can produce from those chunks of metal but first they have to be brought off the shelf, heated intensely and put on the anvil and formed by the blacksmith.
What happens next? What happens when the tool made by the blacksmith becomes used and worn and no longer effectively carries out its purpose? It gets sharpened. It gets retooled and equipped to be used effectively again. We are part of that process for each other. I am sure you could name several people who have served that role in your life. And we are called to pass it on. Iron doesn’t sharpen iron without contact. Iron doesn’t sharpen iron without some clashes and tension. But in the end both pieces end up sharper than ever before.