A Family of Friends - Proverb 27:17

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I heard someone say once that the parents who are able to transition best from authority to friend as their children become adults are the parents who enjoy the closest relationship over the course of their lives. And, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Loving our children young requires discipline, boundaries, and accountability. Proper parenting requires a healthy wielding of the authority over them that we’ve been granted by God as they grow up. But, one day, they’ll be grown, and they’ll choose whether or not they spend time with us. They’ll choose whether or not they call. They’ll choose whether or not to heed our counsel or whether they will be comfortable coming to us for advice at all. And, that decision will be largely predicated upon whether or not we’ve been able to establish a relationship, a friendship as men and women that outlasts our role as disciplinarian and authority when they’re children.
That statement rings in my ears as a vision that I have for my family. Right now, my family is young, and we are trying to train our children in the way they should go. But, I hope — I pray — that one day we’ll be friends and that we’ll be a family that doesn’t just love one another but also likes one another. I pray that we’ll be the type of family that chooses to spend time together and confide in one another and pray for one another.

God’s Word

And, this is the vision that the Bible paints for God’s people — God’s family. Of course, we’re supposed to love one another, but it’s supposed to be a love that leads to enjoyment, a love that leads to time together. We’re not just supposed to love one another in sense of a rigid, mechanical commitment; we’re intended to like one another. God wants his children to be friends, a friendship that is predicated upon our collective friendship with Him. Proverb 18:24 says of God that there’s “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”, and it’s that friendship that establishes the pattern for all friendships.
In fact, friendship among God’s people is a major theme in Proverbs. Proverbs is a book that teaches us how God designed the world to work so that we might thrive according to that design, and it makes clear that friendship is designed by God and is intended by us to enrich and empower our lives. Thinking upon Proverb 27:17, we can observe Three Characteristics of Friendship (Headline):

Friendship is a “means” of “wisdom.”

Proverb 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Friendship is a primary means of wisdom.
The ESV translates it more generically, but it is literally translated as “a man sharpens the face of his friend.” It’s a picture of how Proverbs understands friendship to work. “Face” is referring to a person’s countenance, personality, and character. That is, a friend is to play a role in sharpening, maturing, strengthening their friend’s countenance and character. To fit this within the big idea of Proverbs, we can understand that to make one “sharper” is to make one wiser, to help your friend live more aware of God and more skilled in their daily life.
The reason that friendship is such a common refrain throughout Proverbs is that God designed friendship to be a primary means of wisdom in our lives. We’re intended to learn, observe, and grow through our friendships with one another. Wisdom is a gift from above, and very often, the way that God gives us that gift is through our wise friends and counselors. Think of what Solomon writes earlier in Proverb 13:20: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Do you hear it? If you have healthy friendships according to the design of God, if you walk with friends — not alone, if you walk with the wise — not just anyone, you BECOME wise. God-fearing friends are a means by which godly wisdom enters your life.
It’s not good for man to be alone.
Now, this Proverb begs a question: What happens without friends? What happens if a person is determined to live their lives their way based upon their wisdom? Well, what happens to piece of iron that’s left alone? It stays dull. It never BECOMES anything. It exists with the unrealized potential of being a blade. That is, if we’re to believe Proverbs, we have to agree with what God said of Adam back in the Garden of Eden. Even before there was sin and brokenness in the world, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” God created us with a need for him and a need for one another. Apart from friendship, we can never be the wise people who thrive according to God’s design. We cannot be wise without godly friends speaking into our lives.
So, you see, the individualism that tells you to go your own way and do your own thing and seek your own truth is not only selfish; it’s arrogance. It’s the opposite of wisdom. It’s foolishness. It’s pride, and God opposes the proud, as God says in James, the Proverbs of the NT. Trying to live alone by the best you can figure out is a denial of God’s design for your life. Not only do you miss the wonderful laughter of inside jokes and helpfulness of learning from someone else’s gifts and experiences, but you invite the opposition of God into your life with your pride.
Wilson! (show pic)
One of the most surprisingly gut-wrenching scenes I’ve seen in a movie is when Wilson floats away in Castaway. You’ll remember that Tom Hanks was stranded on that rock for four years. And, he finds a volleyball that he pics up with his bloody hand, and it becomes his friend, his confidant, and his adviser. And, as that grown man screams and cries out at the realization that Wilson was floating around it’s a reminder that we need the companionship of friends. It’s not good for us to be alone. We need advice. We need people who can help us. We need the wisdom of others. Right now, do you have friends within God’s family like that? Are you walking with the wise that you might become wise?

Friendship is within “striking distance.”

Proverb 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Within Striking Distance
Think about the picture that Proverb 27:17 paints. You have two pieces of iron, and they’re being crashed into one another. Think of what that implies. For these two hunks of iron to be helped by one another, for them to be sharpened into something powerful, for them to help one another reach their potential within God’s design, they have to be within striking distance of one another. And, we learn something else about the type of friendship that Proverbs teaches. True life-giving, wisdom-inducing friendship requires closeness. It requires two friends living within striking distance of one another.
The kind of sharpening that this proverb has in mind is the kind of sharpening that can only come from someone who really knows you. It’s the kind of sharpening that comes from someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses, your virtues and vices, and it’s someone who genuinely wants only your good. So, they strike you with encouragement when you need encouragement, and they challenge you when you need to be challenged. They speak honestly to you when you seek their counsel, even if it’s not the easiest thing to see. They call you to repentance from your sin, but they do it with gentleness, grace, and respect. They take seriously what Solomon said just a few Proverbs before in the very same chapter (27:6): Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Hurt, but Not harm
A friend may hurt you, but they will never harm you. They may say to you what you don’t want to hear, but they do it only insofar as they’re seeking to help you walk ever more in the fear of God. Think of Jesus condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees or even rebuking Peter by saying he was doing Satan’s work, and it was in each instance, as many as we can think of, not to harm, but to bring a wound to the soul that we lead to repentance.
We have to have friends in our lives like Jesus. We have to have friends in our lives who call us to self-reflection in the presence of God. We have to have friends who are within striking distance that can speak honestly with us about the blindspots in our lives. When I think about the times of greatest growth and maturing in my life, I often think of the times in which I was wounded with the honest, kind, prayerful rebuke of a friend. I once had a friend tell me gently that I came across as arrogant and unapproachable to others. It changed the course of my ministry. I had a different friend let me know that he didn’t appreciate the way that he’d heard me speak to my wife, and it made me aware of something that I didn’t see before. In the moment, I was angry and hurt, but what it was hurt that led me to repentance and wisdom. I need that. You need that.
We Resist What We Need
And, what’s interesting is that it’s that vulnerability, that possibility of someone addressing our sinfulness, that possibility of opening up our humanness to others so that our frailty and blindspots can be helped that we resist the thought of being within striking distance so that we can be made sharper. We’re like the child who run away from her mother who’s trying to keep her from being hit in the road. We don’t want to helped. We prefer the pretense of a false persona. We prefer to hold the world at arm’s length so that we’re not troubled with the attainment of wisdom.
Who’s within striking distance of you life? What friends have permission to wound you in love?

Friendship is a “two-way street”.

Proverb 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Humble Iron in a Master’s Hands
When you think of it, it’s pretty humbling to be compared to iron. On it own, iron is just a big hunk of dense metal that doesn’t do anything. Iron is only useful in the hands of a skilled tradesmen, in the hands of Someone who knows how to make it useful. That’s the idea of the old Sage here. God is at work in our lives to make us into who He intends for us to be. For those of us who are his children, He’s working in our lives like a skilled blacksmith forging us into an instrument that He will use mightily to spread his glory and build his kingdom. And, how is God working to make us useful here? He’s using two friends to make one another better. The idea here isn’t just two pieces of metal crushing into one another randomly. That’s not how you sharpen something. It’s two hard, dense pieces of iron intentionally, purposefully, methodically striking one another so that it produces a useful edge.
What’s interesting is to think of how God uses the friends to sharpen one another. Both friends strike and are struck. At times, they’re consuming the wisdom from their friend, and at other times they’re contributing wisdom to their friends. Some days, they’re sharpening, and other days, they’re the one being sharpened. Such is the nature of friendships according to the design of God. It’s a two way street of give and take, strike and be struck, pick up and dust off and then be picked up and dusted off. Left to themselves, two hunks iron can’t accomplish much, but, in the right hands with the right skill, a craftsmen can use them to chip away the rough edges of one another so that they become weapons capable of winning wars. That’s how God uses us in our friendships with one another. He’s striking us together at just the right time and in just the right way so that we can build his Kingdom together.
Be Friendly to have Friends
So, don’t read Psalm 27:17 as just a reminder of how you’re to be sharpened it’s a call for us to take responsibility for the sharpening of our friends. It’s a call for us to commit to one another so that we can see to it that each of us becomes all that God intends for us to come. It’s a call to both have friends and to be friends. I find it true that all of us want to have friends, but not many of us want to be friends. To be a friend requires you to take responsibility and to contribute to the relationship. It costs you something of yourself to have friends. Several years ago, a family complained to me that they couldn’t make friends. I tried several times to facilitate them building friendships with others, but each attempt failed. After some digging, what I found was that they required a lot out of their friends. They were quick to confront sin, to call in favors, and place high expectations on others, but they never paid anything into the relationship themselves. They were always consuming and never contributing. But, that’s not how friendship works according to God’s design. So, I advised them to find ways to serve others and minister to them because as one of my friends often points out to me, the Bible says that “he who has friends must himself be friendly.” (Prov 18:24 KJV). Friendship is a two-way street.
What kind of friend are you?


I want to apply this morning’s message in a very particular way. Eight years ago when I came, the dream was to be a part of a true church family. I want us to be the kind of family that doesn’t just love one another, but likes one another. I want us to be the type of family that chooses to be with one another. That is, I want us to be a family of friends. I want us to be the type of family that makes one another wiser. I want us to live within striking distance of one another so that we really know one another and confess sin to one another and make one another sharper. I want us to go all-in with one another and take responsibility for each other’s well-being.
And, Connection Groups are where our church family becomes friends. Connection Groups haven’t always been that way, and I know that different ones have had different experiences. But, here’s the dream that I want all of my leaders and all of you to hold on to. Connection Groups aren’t about a group of people enduring more time in a classroom. Connection Groups are when family gather around the table to become friends. They’re our opportunity be the kinds of friends to one another who are a means to wisdom in God’s word. They’re a place for us to get close to each other. They’re an opportunity for us to be invested in and to invest in others. That’s the vision. That’s the target. We’re not going to stop till we get there. And, we want you involved.
So, we’re placing a renewed emphasis on our Connection Groups, and we’re simultaneously launching five new groups. Look at the document you received as you came in. We’ve created a framework that allows the various leaders to tailor their groups to their specific abilities, teaching style, and vision for their groups. And, we’ve done that because God uses all different types of people to lead all different types of groups to connect with all different types of people. So, here’s what we have. Within each group, you’ll see a couple of variations each with pros and cons. And, my prayer, my desire, my dream is to see each one of you in one of these groups. We have about 140 people who attend worship regularly but not a group regularly. And, maybe it’s because we haven’t been great in the past at building new friendships, maybe it’s just because you got out of the habit. Well, today is a fresh start. You can be a part of a group starting from the ground up if you’d like. But, let’s commit to being friends together. Let’s seek wisdom from one another. Let’s get close to one another. Let’s take responsibility for one another. Let’s be a family of friends. Sign-ups are throughout the back.
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