Are you familiar with Russ and Milt? They are the two stars in the CBS cop dramedy Battle Creek, which unfortunately is in its final season as I write.
To be sure, the ‘odd couple anti-buddy cop’ formula has been around for decades, so it’s not like Battle Creek was trying to forge new ground in terms of a plot line. But it’s a shame we won’t be able to see more of the unique and believable chemistry that Russ and Milt have crafted in their misadventures together.
And what is the chemistry? To sum up: Russ is an old school, hard in the paint kind of cop (he’s also the Mayhem Allstate insurance guy, remember?), and Milt is the ultra-polished model of sophistication, so you can see the potential fireworks, right?
But despite the volatile nature of their relationship, the series demonstrates the value of having someone in your life who comes from a totally different perspective.
That’s what the wisest man who ever lived thought anyway, and here is how he describes this concept:
In the same way that iron sharpens iron,
a person sharpens the character of his friend. Proverbs 27:17
This verse is from a collection of ‘wise sayings’ from Solomon, and they contain some of the most insightful observations of human nature in the entire Bible. In this particular proverb, Solomon is comparing the ancient process used to sharpen knives and other tools with the nature of relationships.
At face value, this saying doesn’t make sense. Iron literally cannot sharpen iron unless a very specific qualification is met, which is called active reciprocity. In other words, the types of iron used must be different enough for one to shape and change the other. So back in the day (and maybe still today), a hard piece of iron was used to sharpen a softer one so that it would be useful in its design.
In Battle Creek, the hardened character Russ sharpens Milt, but in the process, he is becoming a bit more polished himself.
In real life, you and I also need a friend or two who is different enough to smooth our rough edges and sharpen our focus so we can do what we are designed to do, which is tell people about Jesus!
Who in your life is providing “active reciprocity”? There may be folks who you consider unpleasant, unfriendly, or even unlikeable that interact with you on a regular basis, but it may be that God has purposely put them into your life to make you into the man or woman of God that He had planned out before the beginning of time!
And who knows? Maybe you are doing the same thing for them?
In Proverbs 18:24, Solomon also writes:
There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
What he is saying is that if you only hang out with and make friendships with people who are just like you, you are in danger of not having any true friends at all! But friendships born out of differences and diversity can be the most loyal and true on the planet.
And this is seen most in the friendship we have with Jesus-right?
He is perfect – we are sinful
He is forgiving – we hold grudges
He is giving – we are selfish
He is all-powerful – we are weak
He is faithful – we are fickle
And on and on…bottom line: He is God! And we most certainly are not!
So our walk with the Savior truly is “iron sharpening iron”, right? Every minute we spend with the One who is so different from us makes us more and more like Him. And although we are stained with sin and fail again and again, He sticks closer than any other friend or even brother or sister ever would or could, because He loves us with an everlasting love.
You may not be a cop in Battle Creek, but I bet you are like me — trying to make my way through life with some very different people all around me. But instead of being annoyed and irritated by our friends’ differences, remember that they are an instrument for character development that God has placed in your life. Don’t waste the “active reciprocity” opportunities that come your way, and remember that even if every friend you have on the planet ditched and deserted you, Jesus will never leave or forsake you, because your series finale is when you see Him face to face!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
This week, see the people who are different than you as instruments of “iron” that God is using to shape you into the person He made you to be!
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, thank you for being the friend that ‘sticks closer than a brother’, help us to be that friend to everyone around us, especially those that don’t know You so they can see You in us and trust in You for salvation.
Read: Hebrews 10:24-25
Get: GOSPEL Journey® Adventure. Seven strangers, six days, one unforgettable journey. Find out what happens when seven strangers with different personalities and different beliefs find themselves in the Coloradoan mountains. Will they have to battle some things out? Check out this curriculum series!
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Want to use this Soul Fuel as a bible study with your students this week? Copy and text them the following: “Have that person you just can’t seem to get along with? Find out the reason they may be in your life in this week’s devo: http://hubs.ly/y0Qfvc0”
Big Idea: People in our lives who are different from us are put in our lives by God to sharpen us and help us fulfill the design God has for our lives .
Key Scripture: Proverbs 27:17
- Have you ever had to be around someone that was opposite of you? What happened?
- How have people who are different than you helped you grow as a person?
- How have you been the iron that has sharpened other people?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?