As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Something to Consider
The Hebrews letter is written for two main purposes: to instruct Jewish converts how to live by faith instead of conforming to code and inspire them to stay confident in their belief. God’s unmerited favor and the meaning of grace go beyond their religious experience and understanding. They live in a culture governed by Law, making them vulnerable to relapse into what they’ve always known. Because of this, the writer underscores why it’s unwise for any believer to go it alone. Discouragement comes too quickly and stays too long when there’s no one to help lift you out. The writer says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10.24-25)
Although we live in nominally Christian communities, our situation closely compares with that of Hebrews’ original readers. The majority of our family, friends, and neighbors are content with being cultural Christians—i.e., accepting Jesus’s principles without practicing them. They’re governed by Christianity’s concept of a personal relationship with God, which many misconstrue as placating Him with lip service while living on their own terms. Our decision to follow Jesus in earnest puts us in the minority and often isolates us. It’s unwise to go it alone, which makes spurring one another’s commitment to Christ and reaching out to each other for encouragement something to consider seriously.
An enormous spectrum of knowledge and experience exists between us—along with a bounty of gifts, talents, and life skills. It simply makes good sense to avail ourselves to what each of us can offer and make what we have available to others. Regardless where we are in our walk with Christ, we know believers further ahead of us and others not yet where we are. We look for advice and inspiration from those out front; we offer the same to those behind us. In either case, both parties gain mutual benefit by seeking one another out. As Proverbs teaches us, we sharpen each other in the same way that iron bars hone their edges. We approach sharper, stronger Christians for help with smoothing our contours to reflect God’s love and Jesus’s example more perfectly. We also improve substantially when less seasoned and confident believers look to us for help. Upholding one another in the faith always results in profit to either side, just as two pieces of metal end up sharper and cleaner after they’re rubbed together.
When we’re apart, we can’t escape harmful exposure to corrosive elements and influences. Unattended, they eat away our substance, blunt our effectiveness, and discolor our appearance. It’s our responsibility to monitor damages we undergo very closely and reunite quickly with other believers to rub them out. This asks tremendous humility to identify the flaws and failures we need help with. James 5.16 exhorts us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The longer we keep to ourselves, putting off coming clean so we can become clean, the higher our probability of growing duller, weaker, and less pleasing to God.
Very rarely does someone abruptly decide to quit following Jesus and revert to his/her old ways. Such a dramatic break constitutes utter craziness, as Solomon explains in Proverbs 26.11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Far more frequently, once-fervent Christians grow indifferent by gradual neglect and withdrawal from fellow believers. Fear of exposing their failure turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as concealing it ultimately leads to doing it and there’s no hiding failure after it happens. No scripture I know counsels us to be aloof, afraid, or ashamed with one another. Time and again we’re told to be incisive, fearless, and bold. We can’t be sharp and stay sharp on our own. For that we need to spur one another to love and good deeds, to encourage one another, to pray for and with each other.
Whether we need sharpening or we’re asked to help sharpen another, we come out cleaner, stronger, and more incisive in the end.
(Tomorrow: Pure Religion)
Postscript: Weekend Gospel
Thou Art a Shield for Me: Psalm 3 – Byron Cage & Purpose
Gospel aficionados around the world know Byron Cage as “the prince of praise.” Backed by his nine-member group, Purpose, he has carved his own niche as a superb singer and songwriter focused completely on drawing listeners into a spirit of worship. While most other leading gospel artists are inimitable, Byron’s calling requires him to be widely imitated by less accomplished musicians. Dozens of his songs are now praise-and-worship standards in churches of every size and spirit. Here he sets Psalm 3 from the King James Version in a lilting, pop-infused melody that resolves with a genuinely moving coda: “Thank You for lifting my head.” And evidence of Byron’s global impact becomes obvious by this video being originally broadcast in Brazil (ergo the Portuguese subtitles). Slightly mellower than normal, yet too marvelously rich to be missed. Enjoy!