As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
My countenance is my face. When I come to someone else’s mind, I expect that it is similar to when others come to my mind. Thinking of the image of a person, we think of the person’s face. After all, if we say that we want to see someone’s photo, that is what we mean. We are not asking to see that person’s hands or feet or ears. Although I can recognize many people without seeing their faces, by-and-large the picture of a person is just that. Perhaps this scripture is a reference to sharpening one another’s images but not the natural countenance. Perhaps this language hints at the image we are to carry spiritually before others, which is the godly image to which we are conforming.
We all know that our spiritual growth is not something we do alone or in a vacuum. Our personal relationships with the Lord are important, but we were built for community. We are to grow together spiritually. We can take this verse to mean that Christian friends should be building one other in their knowledge, their wisdom and their gifts. One is to champion the continued image transformation of the other. After all, the goal is to look less like us and more like Christ. That is the image we are to show to the world, the countenance we want them to see. Is it not the countenance that the Father sees when He looks upon one of his children who has been washed by the blood of the Son?
Another way to understand this verse is that we should be positively affecting the faces of our friends, which means that we bring smiles to them. It should be a pleasure for us to interact because we know that we live for the good of one another. We are to bring one another comfort and support, and that should be a pleasure. Perhaps it should bring smiles to our faces simply to look upon our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because we see him in them. Considering the various perspectives from which we can look at this verse, I would say that our sharpening should be spiritual, intellectual and emotional. Father, help us to partake in this mutual sharpening of the body of Christ with wisdom, passion and joy.