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May 20, 2021

The Need for Sharpening (Part One)

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

Most men love this verse because it SOUNDS manly. It uses the word “iron” twice and “sharpen” twice and has the word “man” in it.  It speaks of brotherhood, challenging conversations and coming out better on the other side.  And if these challenging conversations should happen while fishing, hunting, arm wrestling, mountain biking or sitting around a campfire, it takes the manliness factor to an even higher level.

But the question is: do you WANT to be sharpened?  Do you want a guy to get in your face and call you out for sinful or inappropriate behavior or challenge your thinking?  Are you willing to learn from a guy like that or do you blow him off?  Do you think, “Dude, it’s none of your business.”  Or do you tell him “Give me a break. You’re just judging me, and by the way, judging’s a sin.”

I can still remember the first time a brother in Christ called me out.  It stung like crazy, but I needed it, learned from it and grew from it.

It was the summer after my junior year in college.  I was a relatively young believer and I was driving from Austin, Texas to a small Christian camp in Northern New Mexico where I was working as a camp counselor.  It was a twelve-hour drive, and I was caravanning with other camp counselors, most of whom I didn’t know.  As a way to get to know each other better, we switched cars when we took breaks.  This is how Andy and I ended up in the same car.

Andy was a few years older than me, had worked at the camp the summer before and held a leadership position.  I was looking forward to getting to know him.

At first, I was disappointed because he slept the first few hours as I drove.   But eventually he woke up and asked if I had any music.  I inserted one of my favorite mix tapes (yes, it was a cassette) and turned it up.

I wish I could remember what the exact song was, but I know it was sexually explicit and incredibly crude.  I know this because Andy told me.  About a minute into the song he slowly turned down the volume, looked at me and said, “Why are you playing this?”

I didn’t really have an answer, other than I liked it.  He asked me if I had thought about the lyrics.  To be honest, I hadn’t.

He hit rewind, turned up the volume, hit play and told me to listen closely to the song that I had said was one of my favorites.

I could feel my face turning red as I contemplated the lyrics in the presence of this man I hardly knew.

Then he asked THE question, “Do you think this song is honoring to God?”

That question floored me because it wasn’t something I had ever considered related to my music choices.

Andy wasn’t mad.  I didn’t feel judged by him.  But he did call me out.  And he primarily did it with his questions.  He turned the music off and shared with me how songs like this brought up painful memories for him because of the life he lived before coming to Christ.  He also told me that it would be very inappropriate to play music like that around the campers.  Ouch.

We sat in silence for a while after that.  I was embarrassed.  But at the same time, I learned something big.  I love music but had never really thought about the lyrics or how they might influence my thinking.  I had certainly never thought about what Jesus would think about my music collection.

Years later I came across Proverbs 27:5-6:

 Better is open rebuke

than hidden love.

 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;

profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

It takes humility to allow yourself to be sharpened.  In order to become better men, we need it!   We need the faithful words of our brothers and sisters to help us grow in Christlikeness.

It is so hard to be rebuked or hear criticism of any kind.  When I do, I have to fight hard to keep from getting defensive.  My instinct is to find holes in the criticism, looking for ways to prove myself and somehow justify my behavior, position, or way of thinking.

But when I actually receive the rebuke and process the words behind it, I learn and I’m a better man for it.  This can be really hard for men who struggle with perfectionism.  It feels like an attack.

Men, we need other men to play a sharpening role in our lives.

More on this next week.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  1. Do you really want to be “sharpened” by other men in your life?
  2. How well do you receive a loving rebuke?
  3. Can you think of a situation when you were called out by a friend?  How did you feel?  What was the result?

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