Proverbs 27:17 is one of my favorite verses to think about growth in faith. I am sure that is true for many of us, especially guys. It is a good word of how we lift each other up in the faith. Most modern translations write it this way,
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17, ESV
I decided to study this verse a little more and found that the KJV places the word "countenance" in the verse as does the MEV which is the Modern English Version of the King James which says this,
Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”Proverbs 27:17, MEV
Looking at the Hebrew, the change from the countenance or face of a friend would be more true to the text, so why does the ESV and NASB change it? The reasoning could be for ease of understanding, but I think that something was lost. The other may be understand as "friend" in the word "another," but it does not highlight the need of a friend to someone that seeks to better their friend as well as to see a friend as one that not only speaks the positive words to you, but also the difficult words that may not be easy to say but necessary for positive correction.
As followers of Christ we are called to lift each other to live our lives in a way that glorifies the God to whom we belong. This means not only supporting us with positive words of encouragement, but healthy encouragement. I know what it is like to have people say negative things about me behind my back, as I am sure that many of us are. I am also have enjoyed the positive things spoken to me. A friend, however, will say the negative in private in a way that is not meant to discourage and tear down, but to lift up. A friend will speak the difficult words that are meant to enable us to be better.
I love to reflect on things, not that I love to hear negative, but I do like feedback. I have been open to this for most of my life because of the many Counselors that I have seen in my life. As a child, my mother placed me in counseling to help me with anger that I had to work through because of my parents divorce and things that I had to process because of some of the things that I had witnessed. In the beginning, this taught me a lesson on how to be open about my feelings and express things, unfortunately, I had to learn another painful lesson in learning to be careful about with whom I shared. This is the reality of this verse.
As followers of Christ, it is vital for our faith walk to find brothers or sisters, I would recommend that the greatest confidants aside from that of a spouse should be of the same gender to prevent any inappropriate affections to develop, with whom you can walk and talk about issues of faith. Develop that relationship with clear boundaries and understanding with hopes that as time progresses that they will be respected. It is a difficult journey, but one that is important because the faith we walk within is not an easy faith but needs to be supported. As we build up and sharpen to faith of our friends, we are to build them up to put you in front of them at all times. That they may be built up to reflect more of you in every aspect of their lives and the friends that sharpen us are to build Christ up more and more in our reflection too. With that the Church is lifted up and more and more will see the face of Christ.
The Benediction that I give after every service is one that another pastor shared when I was preparing to enter my first call and it is this,
May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, walk with you to the end of your road.May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, teach you to serve one another.May the Christ who loves with a broken heart, be your love forever.May you find the face of Christ in every one you meet and may everyone you meet find the face of Christ in you.Amen.
These words have resonated with me since the first time I heard them and my hope is that they resonate with all who hear me speak them and all who read them on this Blog. As we are sharpened in the faith by our close friends of the faith, we are being sharpened for a purpose, to glorify God. That is the greatest gift and opportunity that we are given as followers of Christ. We should not desire that people see us first, but that they see in our lives and actions the One who we worship. He is the hope for our daily living and the salvation we should strive for within our lives. My prayer is that each Christian seek out that friend, if they don't already have one, and that the work of the faith be worked out together. In our world today we have too much division, let us be united in the One who will always be faithful!