“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17, NIV
I know that this verse is utilized a lot in Christian culture, and a lot has been written about what iron sharpening iron is supposed to look like in the life of the Christian. I don’t know that I have a whole lot to say that adds to the conversation on this verse, but I think that it bears repeating here in the context of understanding Christianity, creativity and community.
From what I understand, when one piece of iron is used to sharpen another, it doesn’t actually scrape away any of the iron. Although this procedure is not common anymore when a blade needs to be sharpened, it would have been relevant in Biblical times. It helps bring the iron to a point. Because of the collision, something that is not good for very much is turned into a valuable tool. An ax without a sharp blade is not going to do anything, but when it is given an edge, it can be used for a variety of productive purposes. However, the blade would not become useful if it was not subjected to collision with another piece of iron.
The difficult part is that we do not really like collisions. It can be hard to get any type of resistance from anyone else, but in the context of the creative process, that is sometimes what we need. I don’t know everything, and I am wrong quite often. Because of that, when I am trying to write something, I very well might make some wrong choices. I might need someone else to come along and help get me back to the sharpness I really ought to have. After all, as Christians, we are trying to do what we can to the glory of God, and if we don’t put forth our best effort, are we really bringing all the glory to God that we possibly could? By no means.
This passage does not say that one piece of iron sharpens itself. It takes someone else of like kind and quality to actually make this process work, and that is where the importance of community comes in to play. If we’re in a community of like-minded believers, they are going to have the quality of being iron like we are iron. This is not to say that we cannot be sharpened by non-Christians at times because I have certainly been challenged and convicted by people who do not believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation in a way that was beneficial to me, but in the context of this specific passage, it is a discussion of those who are similar in composition.
As such, we need to take advantage of community especially with our creative works. We need that resistance to make it sharper and more ultimately useful, and to do that, we need a like-minded community to help push us to that point. Without that, we’re not going to put forth our best which is consequently not going to bring the greatest amount of glory to God which, again, ought to be our purpose as sub-creators within the creation.