October 18, 2006

Magnetic Grace and Iron Bars

2006 1529 page13 caphe Message* paraphrase of John 12:32 reads: “And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” Verse 33 tells us what Jesus meant by “lifted up”: “He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.” But what exactly does the term “attract,” or “draw,” imply? Is there anything inherently attractive about seeing someone dying by torture?
“Don’t be simple,” you say. “The attraction is in what Christ did for us on the cross.”
And you are right. The attraction is grace—the power and force of His grace. Grace attracts, or draws, like a magnet. But magnetism also does something to the thing it draws. Let’s consider grace in the context of magnetism and draw some simple analogies.
2006 1529 page13The obvious analogy is that magnets draw iron objects to themselves, just as Christ said His grace would draw everyone. So, let’s think of ourselves as iron bars. Just as humans are not born full of grace, iron bars are not born magnetic. They are made from liquid iron, which solidifies. They are in a condition referred to in science books as having their “domains randomly oriented.” The places inside them that could be magnetic are going every which way; nothing is lined up right.
However, if a “randomly oriented” iron bar is put in a strong magnetic field, the domains all line up with the field, and the bar itself is said to be a “permanent magnet.” So, once we have accepted Jesus’ drawing grace, why aren’t we all powerful little magnets drawing our children, our neighbors, anyone around us to the big magnetic field of Christ’s grace?
The answer is in the fact that the “permanent magnet” state can be destroyed by heat or shock. We can compare that to our everyday lives on this earth. Ellen White wrote: “[A]n intensity such as never before was seen is taking possession of the world. In amusement, in moneymaking, in the contest for power, in the very struggle for existence, there is a terrible force that engrosses body and mind and soul.”1
In other words, even after our little iron bars have been drawn into the magnetic field and magnetized, it doesn’t mean “once permanent magnets, always permanent magnets.” There must be a decided effort to keep returning them to the strong magnetic field of grace, so they can remain magnetized.
“Many, even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing [magnetization] of real communion with God,” Mrs. White observed. “They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ’s loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts [the magnetic field], but not waiting for counsel [or the alignment of their magnetic domains]. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. . . .”
“These workers can never attain the highest success [drawing power] until they learn the secret of strength [magnetization by grace]. They must give themselves time to think, to pray, to wait upon God for a renewal of physical, mental, and spiritual [magnetic] power.”2
If you want to see these principles in action for yourself, find a big magnet. Then find a few paper clips to represent our little iron-bar selves. Notice that one paper clip does not draw another when the first isn’t near the “magnetic field.” However, once a paper clip has been drawn to the big magnet, it becomes a magnet too. It can draw a second paper clip (or two or three) to join it at the big magnet.
So, how do I apply these principles to my daily life?
I must be intentional about getting remagnetized whenever I feel the heat and shock of life buffeting me, which is to say, daily. I will want to ask myself these questions: When I face my students in Sabbath school at the end of the week, am I still magnetized by grace? When I come home at the end of the day, have rush hour traffic and office politics shocked all the magnetic grace from me, leaving none for my loved ones? Am I magnetized enough to be a force for keeping new members in the church? Are the young people I know drawn to Christ through me?
In short, just how magnetically attractive am I letting Him make and keep me?
*The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
1Education, p. 260.
Kathy Beagles is editor and curriculum specialist for the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department.