Sharpening Iron

As iron sharpens iron; so doth a man
sharpen the countenance of a friend.
— Proverbs 27:17

Have you ever seen iron sharpened?  Sparks fly.  Rough edges are broken away.  There are splinters left on the ground.  There are harsh noises at the iron hits iron.  It takes strength and accuracy to sharpen the tool.  But all of this is imperative… isn’t it?

Christians like to say phrases like “Use me, Lord”, or “Mold me, shape me, make me more like you”… but the honest-t-Gospel truth is that they don’t want sparks to fly.  They don’t want anything broken away.  They don’t want to splinter.  They don’t like confrontation or noises of any kind.  They’ll even sacrifice accuracy and strength to spare themselves the pain.

Brian and I were talking about this last night, because the lesson this week is called “iron sharpening iron”… and it was a joke.  For example, here’s one of the statements in the lesson book:

Conflict is guaranteed whenever a group goes beyond the ‘niceness’ stage of hiding conflicting opinions and preferences.  As this happens, your group will become a tool that sharpens each member without harming anyone.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the moment you have conflict, someone’s gonna get hurt.  There is no such thing as painless conflict.  That statement is the dumbest thing I’ve read in a long time.  When you go ‘beyond niceness’, you’re gonna harm someone.  Hello!  You can’t sharpen iron without striking it, making sparks fly, taking off shards, making noise.  It’s preposterous.

I believe in sharpening.  I believe in conflict as a necessary and important thing.  But the basic underlying mentality of most Christians is “Love is warm fuzzies.  The act of sharpening iron and what’s ‘beyond niceness’ is not love.”  In fact, I brought up this verse at the pastor’s office yesterday, and he told me that most people aren’t ‘iron’ and that if you try to sharpen them, they’ll break.  I … can’t think like that.  What does that do to the verse?!

He’s wrong.  The Luuuv- mongers are wrong.  Warm fuzzies is the world.  It’s a wide path, with plenty of room and plenty of comforts and loads of distractions.  That’s not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches that love – real love – is iron sharpening iron.  It’s a narrow, rough, uncomfortable journey.  But think of the end result!  It’s kinda like people who sit around watching DVDs and eating greasies, then bemoaning the fact that they are overweight and out of shape.  Y’know?

Mark Lowry calls it ‘boot camp’.  It’s training – conditioning, and it’s painful.  Just as there are pulled muscles, fatigue, tough demands… we are being shaped into what we need to be.  It’s not a party.  Which is why people walk away from my site.  There are plenty more sites that will post warm fuzzies and blogs about their kids, their days, their new recipes and cute anecdotes to bring a smile.  Not that those things aren’t a part of us… but if this is only ‘boot camp’… what should be the main focus?  The goal?  The fight?  The race?  Or the pretty trees on the side of the course?

I’ve been doing a dumb thing – fretting over lost subscribers this week.  ((I lost several more.))  I thought about just going private.  I thought about giving up talking about scripture and conforming to what’s ‘in’ around here – pictures, quizzes, quotes… light n’ fluffies.  But then would I be a good friend?  Would I be fulfilling my job description – to encourage, correct, rebuke – in long-suffering and sound doctrine?  To stop that would be to stop sharpening you.

As iron sharpens iron…  so will I continue here.

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