Yesterday I heard a preach on community that I found challenging on first listening, and even more so on further reflection.
Something that really stuck with me was the concept of being part of community in order to grow.
This is easy to agree with on the surface, but unpicking it reveals a summons to something deeper than the initial statement suggests.
Donnie Griggs, who was preaching (and was excellent), referenced Proverbs 27:17 among several scriptures used in illustration of reasons endorsing community.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
I got to thinking about this, and had two things hit me hard.
Firstly: in this world there are so many things there to ‘sharpen’ you. So many voices telling you how to live your life better, how to exercise, how to decorate your house, how to improve x, y and z. Personal trainers, life coaches, self-help articles and websites… the list goes on.
What all these ‘life-aids’ have in common is the distinct focus on self; on looking after number 1. They’re there to get you your best body, house, wedding, outfit. They’re there to help you do you, to your best standard, for your best interest. The message they sell bellows: “it’s all about you”. And we are drinking it in, lapping it up, loving the process of making ourselves fantastic.
This self oriented value system: is it sharpening us up, improving us as we so desire?
I fear, friends, that in truth our selfish attempts to self-improve, to self-sharp, do the reverse.
Rather than being made sharp, we are being sanded down to a place of uselessness.
What I mean by this is that in looking after number 1, we focus so hard on ourselves that we forget the real help we need is going to come from other people, and not just people telling us how to make a beautiful life for ourselves, but by living in accountability with one another, calling each other out and supporting one another in good times and bad.
Which leads me on to my second point: the problem of pride.
One man sharpening another, means that we are to come alongside one another and point out areas of weakness (such as selfishness!) in a loving way. It means that as well as sharpening others, I myself am going to have to undergo some sharpening, and have some of my edges rubbed off.
I realise more and more how defensive I get when others begin to rub down my edges. I know it is actually for my good, but too often I am quick to shout them down with excuses such as “it’s just how I am, I like being unashamedly me”.
In reality there are many situations that I should be extremely ashamed of “just how I am”! Pride, irritability, hard-heartedness often override the gentleness, meekness and kindness that I pray so hard to grow in.
The truth is that I cannot grow in these things, without letting others help me, speaking into my life and revealing to me where I slip, in order that I can be helped up again- as oppose to slipping only further.
These things made me question: where am I trying to self-sharpen but it’s actually having the reverse effect? and: where am I avoiding community for fear of habits and behaviours I cultivate being sorted out?
I hope there is challenge in here for you too. Community is beautiful, let’s not shy from devoting time sharing our lives with others instead of wasting effort on self-help for selfish gain!
You can listen to the preach here– I highly recommend it.