God’s Paper Clips
“I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:8
Have you ever used a magnet to make a magnet? I remember doing an experiment in science in which we would try to see how many paper clips we could pick up, end to end, with a magnet. After the paper clips stayed in the chain for an extended period of time we’d find that they had magnetic qualities of their own. Then, we would make chains with the paper clips apart from the magnet. They were never as strong without the larger magnet, but, for a while, they were quite “attractive”.
Recently, while reading about God’s assignment to all His followers (known to most as the Great Commission), I remembered this experiment and thought about how rightly it portrayed our relationship, our connection, with God and with others. We are, in a sense, God’s paper clips! As He draws us to Himself, His power works in us and then through us to draw others to Himself. Even in our weakness, we are useful to God as He chooses to work through man to reach man. His method. His means. His magnetism. Who knew how deeply insightful an experiment with paper clips could be? By pulling this lesson out of the textbook and placing it alongside The Word-book, we can examine the similarities between magnetism and ministry; between desirability and discipleship.
In looking at magnetism, the first thing we notice, the most obvious thing to notice, is that not all objects respond to a magnet. Items such as paper, wood, and glass are no more attracted to a magnet than I am attracted to liver! And, while they manage to avoid the magnet without grimacing, their distaste for its poles is just as real. Through this we learn the two characteristics needed for objects to become magnetic: they must have atoms that are free to move about, to be realigned, and they must have an unequal number of protons and electrons. These two qualities are vital because magnetism results when the atoms in an object are able to be aligned so they can move in the same direction and when they have either a positive or a negative charge. Neutrality may be an effective political pole, but it is inept as a magnetic pole! So, when we encounter items that are not impacted by a magnet, we know that either their atoms are too “set in their ways” and therefore can’t be realigned (can you predict where, shortly, I will go with this?), or that their electrons and protons are so well-matched that they are unable to give off any charge…they are neither positive nor negative; neither hot nor cold (sound familiar…can you say Laodicean?). Oh my, magnetism has so much to teach us!
The second thing we learn about magnetic objects is that in order for them to retain their magnetic status, they must either have an electric current running through them (as is true for electromagnets) or they must continually be impacted by a larger, stronger, magnet so that their alignment stays true. Wow! I don’t think I even need to connect the dots that just surfaced. I trust you can make out the picture even before the lines are drawn! But, you came to read and I showed up early to write, so let’s both do what we came to do and complete this picture!
As I stated at the beginning, when it comes to our usefulness to God, we may think of ourselves as His paper clips. And, if we are the paper clips, then God is the magnet; He is the source that both attracts us and then realigns us to go out and do likewise…to attract others; not by our power but by HIs, and not to ourselves but to His side. In applying the truths identified regarding magnetism, we must now stand beside them to see how truly they apply to us, the paper clips. First, we must ask ourselves if we are truly attractable. Do we have a metal core or are we literally “paper” clips (with no magnetic qualities) which are unable to feel the pull of the Magnet? Are we trying to live apart from the force field exuding from our Creator? Are our atoms of assumption so fixed that, even when jostled about, they cannot break free enough to be realigned? Do trials make us hold more tightly to our false hopes rather than freeing us to let go…and let God? In order to be holy aligned, we first must be wholly unaligned. Randomness must go for order, and attraction, to emerge.
Secondly, once our atoms are moving in the same direction, we must look to see if we are giving off a charge. Are we attracting others by our positive charge? If so, our protons are dominate and are actively impacting others. Or, are we seeing more of a negative charge because, as is also true for magnets, we are pushing others away rather than pulling them in? We must always examine our force field to see if we are pushing or pulling. And even then, we must examine what we are pushing and what we are pulling. Bar magnets don’t discriminate; believer magnets do! Some things shouldn’t be picked up and some things should be pushed away. We would be wise to examine the items within our force field to make sure our pushes and our pulls are working for our good and for His glory!
But, what if there isn’t anything in our force field because we don’t have one? What if, in our effort to have everything orderly, with no room for occasional disorder, we find our protons and electrons are perfectly arranged? While we might think this state of uniformity is desirable, and certainly more predictable and manageable, we must face the fact that it makes us ineffective for the kingdom. In Revelation 3:15, a reproof is given to the church in Laodicea because they are neither hot nor cold, but are lukewarm. Cold water is refreshing; hot water is comforting; lukewarm water is bland and purposeless. To this people, God says “I will spit you out of My mouth.” This, I fear, is just as prevalent among people today as it was in the first century. We don’t have to look far to find areas in which neutrality is desired at the cost of truth. If truths convict, they are closeted; if absolutes agitate, they are abolished; if principles are problematic, they are perforated. And what fills the void following their removal? Preferences, pacifications, and placations. All neutral; all lukewarm; all void of a charge; all unable to pick up a single paper clip.
Finally, let’s hope that, at least in our mind’s eye, our atoms are rightly aligned and we are giving off a positive charge. Now, when we look up, we see we are attached…and more importantly we feel the attachment…to God and when we look around we see other paper clips are extending from us. How wonderful! God is in us and is working through us to reach others! We are New Testament believers who are God’s witnesses in Judea, in all Jerusalem and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
We are living out 2 Timothy 2:2 which says, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” One paper clip, two paper clips, three paper clips, more. At this point, are there any other laws of magnetism that apply to us? Oh, but there are. First, there is the fact that we all tend to return to a state of randomness if we are not kept close to the source of our strength. If we are not continually rubbing against the larger magnet we will eventually lose our charge and our atoms will return to their natural state of disorder. As we apply this to our lives, we are reminded of the necessity of staying in God’s word, of spending time in prayer, and of worshipping with believers through our local church. Next, we must remember that sometimes, because this world tends to pull on us as well, our atoms get discombobulated and we need to be realigned. While this occurs through spending more time in the presence of our Master Magnet, it sometimes involves a great shake-up that breaks all our misaligned atoms free from what is holding them so that, once shaken free, they are once again moveable and able to travel in the right direction. We tend to think that, once we are attached upwardly and attracting outwardly that there won’t be any more chaos. Unfortunately, we will never fully escape the pull of the world until we are finally out of this world and, therefore, the shake-ups will occur, but never for our undoing and always for our redoing.
Magnetism, paper clips, alignment, and discipleship; all are found within the same force field and all are scientifically accurate because they are Biblically true. What a God, what a Magnet; what a pull, what an attraction. May we all be held in God’s power, charged by His strength, and filled with His current so that “others might also be gathered” to His throne. (Isaiah 56:8).