“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Prov.27:17)
In this jaded world of dysfunctional, even perverted, friendships, it would behoove each of us to take stock from time to time of just how adept we are at the art of friendship. Yes, it’s an art, I think. It takes understanding, tact, patience, compassion, and sometimes, a tough hide. The Word of God has much to say about this wonderful, if biologically unnecessary, relationship. In this verse, Solomon chooses the language of an iron-mason.
Obviously, the purpose of sharpening iron, or any other metal, is to produce an instrument with a cutting edge. Preferably, one that can withstand repeated use. We’ve had to endure the frustration of trying to cut a piece of meat with a knife that, as my mother used to say, “wouldn’t cut hot butter.” The purpose of sharpening, then, is to make something more effective. In the case of people, and especially one’s friends, the purpose is to help give them a “cutting edge” on life.
Notice this principle of life involves not a friend,” but his friend. In other words, “life-sharpening” is not a hit or miss activity on every acquaintance; it assumes a close relationship. As individuals, and especially as Christians, our lives should contain friends, with whom though we may not always be able to rub shoulders, we are always able to exchange minds. Friends are not just for sympathy or encouragement; we can get that from perfect strangers, at times. No, friends are for sounding boards and straight talk and wise decision-making. We sharpen the countenance of a friend by bringing him or her truly into focus. By saying, in essence, “You can be who you really are with me, and I’m interested in helping you be the best you can be.” Confidentially is a given; and honesty is a ground rule.
I probably should mention that this is a two-way proposition. If you and I are doing all the sharpening, we’re going to get pretty dull ourselves! And believe me, there’s no one duller than people who spend their lives trying to change everyone around them, while chaffing at the least hint of personal intrusion. As believers, you and I should always make sure we are “within striking distance” of at least one good friend. We should be exchanging burdens, prayers, thoughts, and ideas in a lively give and take that keeps us both on our toes.
Our countenance says much about who we are. Not the face we wear in public, but the one we reflect in unguarded moments. I don’t know about you, but I want my spiritual “features” to be sharp and in focus, open, honest and true. I need friends to help me with that, whether in person or by some other means of communication. This is the gift we can give one another; and in the final analysis, that’s what friends are for. If you have such a friend, thank God…and him or her.