Recently, God has been bringing me to some truths concerning our need for relationships and true community, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s an idea that is somewhat unfamiliar to me. When I think about my childhood growing up, it seems pretty standard. However, as I look back, I realize more and more that I really didn’t have many close friends, at least friends that I was close enough with to let them see what was on the inside of me.
Now, being married to my best friend and having built some other relationships with a few close friends, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s still hard for me to be vulnerable, but having close, authentic relationships has been such a channel of God’s grace in my life. As I look in Scripture, I see much that confirms what I have experienced (if only I’d looked there sooner!).
The passage I want to draw our attention to is Proverbs 27:17 which reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. It’s a short verse, but there are three main conclusions I draw from it:
- God uses relationships to sharpen us (see Gen 2:18). If you think that you can just face this life on your own . . . your wrong. There is something about how God created us and being created in His image that comes with a need for relationships. Moreover, they are good for us. Now, most people would probably agree with this pretty readily, but I when I think about the idea of iron sharpening iron, it strikes me as being uncomfortable and somewhat painful. True relationships require a great degree of vulnerability and accountability. They don’t come easy. However, one of the best defenses against sin and one of the greatest tools of God’s perfecting work in our lives is true relationships. Much of sin’s power comes from our trying to fight the good fight in our own strength. In cutting ourselves off from true relationships we are cutting ourselves off ultimately from God’s sharpening and strength in our lives.
- Only iron can sharpen iron. I can’t stress this enough. We can be tempted to think that relationships are good in and of themselves. However, God calls us to test the relationships we have and surround ourselves with truly “iron-sharp” friends. This brings us then to the question, “Who are my iron-sharp friends?” Hebrews 4:12 provides us an answer, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is the sharpest thing alive! Therefore, we can conclude that sharp friends are those who have been sharpened by God’s Word. This does not mean that we do not build any relationships with those who don’t know Jesus (how could we share the gospel if we did that?). However, I would argue that all or most of our closest relationships should be with people who are grounded in God’s Word and faith in Jesus Christ.
- What a friend we have in Jesus! In John 15:15 Jesus asserts that he is not only our Lord and Savior, but also our friend. More than any other relationship, we need a relationship with Jesus. Just like with any other relationship, it takes time and energy. It’s a growing thing, not a one and done type of thing. Everyday we give Jesus more of ourselves and experience more of him. Blessings!