Memory Verse: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17.
Max and Brandon loved to play ball. They liked football, baseball, basketball, and any other sport that required a ball. Whenever they were together, they would play for hours without stopping. Their parents had to come outside and remind the boys to drink water because they played so hard and did not want to stop to come inside for a break.
One day, Max noticed that Brandon was being rude to him. When it was time to decide what to play that day, Brandon did not agree with Max on anything. It seemed that if Max wanted to play football that Brandon wanted to play soccer. If Max suggested baseball, Brandon wanted to play basketball. It was a very frustrating day for Max. He was tired of having to deal with Brandon all day.
Max seemed a little down at the supper table. His mom asked him if something was bothering him. Max didn’t really want to talk, but he was confused about what was happening with Brandon. It seemed like the friendship was changing for some reason. Max told his mom that Brandon was acting strange. He described Brandon as selfish and rude. Max’s mom had never heard Max talk about Brandon in that way. Max’s mom told Max that it was probably just a bad day for Brandon, so they finished the conversation, and Max went to bed.
The next day at school, Max noticed that Brandon was hanging out with a new group of boys. Max knew about some of the boys in the group. Some of them were often in the principal’s office. Some of them were disrespectful to the teachers in the classroom. Some of them said hurtful things to other people. When Max saw Brandon in the hallway, Brandon turned his head and walked over to the group of boys. Max felt confused and alone. Throughout the day, Brandon continued to ignore Max and hang out with the other boys.
During lunch, the group of boys were close enough to Max’s table for him to hear them talking. One of the boys asked Brandon if he still hung out with the loser at the other table. Max wasn’t sure, but he felt like they were talking about him. He felt sure that his friend Brandon would speak up for him, but Brandon didn’t. Instead, Brandon laughed and said, “No, not anymore.”
As soon as Max got home, he ran upstairs to talk with his mom. He was sure that something was going on with Brandon. Max talked with his mom about what he had observed and heard Brandon say in the lunchroom. He also made sure that his mom knew that the other boys in the group were boys who often were in trouble at school. For some reason, Max’s mom thought that Brandon was trying to “fit in” with another group at school in order to be “popular.”
Max had never worried about being popular. In fact, Max had friends in lots of different groups at school. He was on the basketball team, so the basketball players were his friends. He was in drama, so the kids in drama were his friends. Max had church friends, scout friends, neighborhood friends, and mission trip friends, so having a friend was not the problem for Max. Max’s problem was that he and Brandon had been such great friends and now something was wrong.
Max’s mom suggested that he invite Brandon over to spend the night on Friday night. After hearing what happened in the lunchroom, Max was not looking forward to asking Brandon to come over because nobody likes to have a friend turn you down, but Max knew that he needed to talk to Brandon alone and that him spending the night would be the best way to talk. Max texted Brandon to ask if he could spend the night. Brandon told him that he thought he was going to do something with the other guys, but he would text back later. Later that night, Brandon texted back and said he could come over on Friday.
Friday after school, Brandon arrived at Max’s house. While the moms were talking in the driveway, Max’s dad also drove up and joined the boys playing football in the yard. Brandon’s mom waved and drove away. Max’s mom told the boys she had to take brownies out of the oven, so she went inside to finish cooking. Within a few minutes after his mom left, Brandon said that he didn’t want to play anymore. Max’s dad said, “Hey, Brandon, everything OK?”
Brandon said, “Well, I have some stuff going on, and I…well…no, it’s all good.”
Max’s dad had spent a lot of time with Brandon. He knew that things did not appear to be “good” at all. He invited the boys to sit with him on the porch. Max’s mom came out with brownies and soft drinks. She served them and went back in the house. Max’s dad began the conversation, “Brandon, I can tell that something is bothering you. You are like part of this family, so you need to know that we all care a lot about you. Buddy, there is nothing that you can share with us that will make us love you less than we do right now. You could turn your back on us, but we will always be there for you. Son, what is going on?”
Brandon hung his head. He began to tell Max and his dad that these guys in this “group” at school had made fun of him because he wasn’t “man enough” to be part of their group. They were teasing him about never getting in trouble at school, about having good relationships with adults, and about not having a girlfriend. Until that time, Brandon had never considered that getting in trouble was a good thing, but those boys made it sound like a “man” thing. After hearing them tease him for some time, Brandon decided he really wanted to be like them – to be a “man.”
Max responded, “Brandon, I knew something was going on. I heard the conversation in the lunchroom when they called me a loser and asked you if you ever hung out with me anymore. While that really hurt me, I could deal with that. What I can’t deal with is that you believed their lies.”
“Do you mean the ‘man’ lies?” Brandon asked.
Max continued, “Yes. Getting in trouble at school is not a sign of manhood and having a girlfriend should be something we think about when we are like 25 – not when we are 11!”
It was time for a real “man” to speak up and share with the boys. Max’s dad told the boys that any group of boys who bullied other people were certainly not “real” men. He shared with them and reminded the boys that a real man would treat others with respect, speak good words about others, take a stand for others, and certainly have good relationships with adults. Max’s dad reminded Brandon that he should always talk with an adult if he was ever bullied. He told Brandon that he could count on Max and the entire family including Max’s mother, who by the way had made some awesome brownies, to be there for him.
Brandon looked at Max and told him that it was time for him to be a man and confess some things to Max. He apologized for being rude, for not standing up for Max when the other boys tried to put him down, and for being moody lately.
Max reminded Brandon that he would always be a friend and that he cared about him. Max told Brandon that his dad had shared a Bible verse with him about iron sharpening iron. His dad had shared that if you want to be sharper in your faith and walk with Christ, you actually hang out with people who are sharp in their faith. The person who hangs out with people without a faith in Christ and without a desire to please Christ, may find themselves sliding down a slippery slope to sin.
Max’s dad chimed in, “Boys, that verse is actually found in Proverbs 27:17. It says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Boys, I have an idea for us this afternoon. Let’s go to the store and buy two simple pocket knives. We can write the reference for that verse on the outside of the knives as a reminder that you two need to stick together, challenge each other, and sharpen each other in your faith. What do you think about that idea?”
There was no need to wonder about the boys’ answer to that question. They were grinning from ear to ear, knunckle-bumping, and belly-bumping like nobody’s business. Max’s dad took the boys to the store, bought them simple pocket knives, and taught them a very valuable lesson that day about being a real “man” of God.
Questions to Think About:
- What happened to Brandon when he started hanging out with boys who were not doing things that pleased God?
- What did you notice about Max’s response to Brandon’s behavior?
- How did Max’s mom and dad help prepare him to be a good friend to Brandon? Do you think Max had a good relationship with his parents?
- If this had happened to you, would you have given up on a friend if they had been hurtful to you?
- What do you think about Max’s dad’s involvement in Max’s life and in Max’s friend’s life? Do you think some of your friends need the influence of your parents?
- If Max’s parents and Max had not looked at Brandon with love and forgiveness, how might this story have had a different ending?
- What about your friends? Do you have friends who will sharpen your walk with Christ or carry you away from Him?
- Thank God for your friends today and decide in your heart to be a friend who “sharpens” your other friends.