Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”
Do you have a friend who, through their criticism or suggestions, feels like an 8 in stainless steel knife has just scraped against you? Maybe it rubbed you the wrong way? Not stab you in the back – that’s different! But this feeling wakes you up, doesn’t it? Maybe it snaps you out of a weird frame of mind that you had to break away from. Maybe it stimulates you to some anger, sadness, and disappointment or maybe to a revelation?
Do you have a true “Iron sharpens Iron” friend? One to rely on for truth? Maybe you have a friend with whom you could sit down and talk about spiritual matters and come away refreshed and strengthened? Is there one who you truly care for enough to share the truth about each others faults?
Relationships are some of the most effective ways to help others grow and develop in their relationship with Jesus Christ. When iron is rubbed against another piece of iron it shapes and sharpens it. Friends can help each other improve by their discussions, criticisms, suggestions, and ideas. Genuine friendship doesn’t respond with hostility but with humility to realize you’re being sharpened. It’s hard on you, but good for you.
True friendship in the Lord is not built on deception. Even if “the truth hurts,” honesty can never harm if it’s given in love. So don’t sugarcoat things. It’s better that we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), because the Spirit can use truth and love to build character, while the devil uses lies and flattery to tear things down (Prov. 29:5). “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue” (28:23).
Flattery is manipulation, not communication. What honest person would want to manipulate a friend? It’s the sharpening of wits and character that comes through the frank and open interaction of friends. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (27:6).
How we accept and apply rebuke is a test of how devoted we are to truth and wisdom and how sincere we are in wanting to know God’s will. “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (15:31). “He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (v. 32).
“He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him” (27:14) Beware of the “friend” who loudly and frequently praises you and tells you what a good friend you are, because true friendship doesn’t depend on such antics.