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Sandpaper people. You know, those folks that seem to always rub you the wrong way. We may not understand, but they are there for a reason. And guess what; you are a sandpaper person for someone else. We are all sandpaper people. We are all rough around the edges. So why do we need or have so much scraping going on? Lets try and shed some light on this subject.
Consider first how an oyster makes a pearl. The formation of a pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritates the mantle. It's kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. Something gets under its skin, as it were. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create its own shell. This eventually forms a pearl. So a pearl is a foreign substance covered with layers of nacre.
Spiritually speaking, we can relate the nacre to our love for one another. When someone is an irritation, when someone gets under your skin, cover them with the mantle of love. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8 – ESV).
Some people may seem like nothing but a thorn in your side. Remember what Paul said about his thorn, For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 – ESV). Sandpaper people help you develop the pearl of patience.
Now think about diamonds. The transformation of a lump of coal into a diamond also involves a mantle. Diamonds are formed deep in the Earth, most likely in the upper mantle, and far below the level at which coal is found. Coal is never turned directly into diamonds. Diamonds are found only when brought up through volcanic action.
You see it takes some fiery trials to turn your lumps of coal into multifaceted, sparkling diamonds. We may believe that some people have nothing to offer us but heartache, headache, and bellyache. However, the poorest of the poor (even in attitude) have something of value for you to receive; it is our pride that hinders us. In his epistles, when Paul says he is praying “for you all” he means even sandpaper people have value.
Spiritually speaking, the mantle that fires those lumps of coal, the mantle that covers those irritants, and turns them into diamonds and pearls is the mantle of God’s love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14).
The environment of believers will always be imperfect, but their rough edges will help to smooth out your wrinkles. As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17). People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. Through others we can see attitudes and characteristics of our own immaturity – weaknesses in us that need to be perfected. If there is bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. But when you hide from church, you are exposed.
Sandpaper people are there to help us shine up, and for us to see our own rough spots. If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the sandpaper people will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23). Sandpaper people may not even realize it, but God has them doing you a favor.