I spoke recently on “Learning to Love Our Enemies” from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” I did not speak out of an abundance of first hand experience, and I was surprised at the number of people who told me later about the enemies they face. I know these folks. That they have enemies at all surprises me, but also makes me think that perhaps my life is rather insulated – but on the other hand, I’m not going rectify that situation by deliberately making enemies.
After the service however, one of our Elders spoke to me about the value of enemies. He pointed to this passage from Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It gave me a different perspective. I’ve looked at that verse as saying you need community and friends to help keep you sharp. The life of the recluse is dull and unprofitable, that’s true, and even Bible study takes a more valuable dimension when brought into a communal setting.
But when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly and often, in relationships, the value is seen in the conflict they bring. It can make us better people. The connection can be seen elsewhere in chapter twenty-seven in the value of open rebuke (vs. 5), along with earnest counsel and wounds from a friend (vss. 6,9). If only we were mature enough to put away pride and respond to conflict as an opportunity for personal growth.