Haydren glanced at the Earl’s son, who stood smiling and talking with a group of boys. “I’ll give him a chance,” he said. “At least he’s talking to me.”
“I’m talking to you,” Kitrel said with a grin. “But I think we can be friends even if we don’t totally understand each other.”
—By Ways Unseen, Chapter 1 - Heirs
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another –Proverbs 27:17
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” –1 Corinthians 15:33
Much of Haydren’s struggle through By Ways Unseen is trying to find acceptance; early on, he believes he can overcome his shame and uncertainty if only he can convince the Earl’s oldest son to be friends with him. As we see in this passage, his true friend Kitrel understands the wisdom of Proverbs 27 and 1 Corinthians 15; one person sharpens another, so we must be careful who is sharpening us—and who we are sharpening.
In Proverbs, it gives no indication what the sharpened person may be used for; it makes me think of the animated film, Kung Fu Panda, where Master Shifu trained Tai Lung into an enemy too powerful to control. We, too, can be sharpened by others into a tool for great evil and sin, if we pay no attention to the morals of those with whom we keep company. Haydren doesn’t see this yet, and spends a lot of the book rejecting those he should be allowing to sharpen him.
“But,” you may ask, “aren’t we to be like Christ in reaching those far from him? And won’t we have to keep company with ‘bad’ people in order to do that?” Of course we will—but notice Christ had no question of who he was, and says in John 5:41 “I do not accept glory from human beings” (NIV). Haydren sought glory through his relationship with the Earl’s son, and we can see this more clearly a little later in this scene. We too, when we seek first the acceptance of our friends, run a tremendous risk of corrupting good character, because we seek to impress them, instead of impressing God. In order to be a good mentor, we must first see ourselves as a mentor—and a mentor is there to teach, not to be taught. So when we approach others in the hopes of bringing them closer to Christ (whether they are an unbeliever, or a newer Christian), we are there to help them, and to bear the image of Christ to them—not to help ourselves, or to bring the image they bear into our lives.
Jesus also says it this way, in Matthew 6:33a “But seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…” (NIV). Haydren sought his own kingdom, and we seek our own kingdom, when we look to the world to find our place, purpose, and approval. Instead, seek God’s kingdom first, “and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33b, NIV).