I have been thinking about this emerging idea of the concept of debt being changed but not eliminated by forgiveness. As I meditated again on this verse about the king wishing to settle accounts with his slaves it began to break through into something very exciting that is still just beginning to make sense.
The Greek word translated accounts also means words. I have seen this previously and just thought of another useful word that could apply here, the word dispute. In a way, the king wanted to settle a dispute with his servants, for a dispute creates a tension just as a debt does. In fact, when someone fails to pay a debt and the lender attempts to collect on it, a dispute is generally what it turns into. It is becoming clear in this story that the king wanted a resolution for the tension created by this condition far more than he wanted the money itself.
But my mind has been searching for something in the natural realm that might have strong correlation with what is going on here in the spiritual. I have noticed more and more that there are almost always principles that operate in physics or other areas of science that directly correlate to spiritual principles and that help to make sense of them. Jesus often used similarities in the natural realm to explain more understandably spiritual principles, and I have often seen similar applications that cross over.
As I pondered this concept of debt and the tension that it creates between people I began noticing that this tension from debt or dispute when it comes into the arena of words always tends to separate. It is what we might call negative attraction or repulsion. It is a mental, emotional pressure to distance one's self from the person that they are in debt to or have a dispute with. Thus any bonds of fellowship or love or affection are eroded and eventually destroyed as long as this repelling force remains in place.
But on the other side of this dispute, the king evidently had a different feeling inside of him. The story begins by highlighting this in stating that the king wished to settle accounts. This could mean that he simply wanted to return things to neutral, and one might argue that, until you get to the part about forgiving an obscenely enormous debt. It then becomes more evident that the king must have had something different in mind beyond just neutralizing the tension between them; rather, he wanted to create a positive attraction or bond between them, not just a neutral state without any tension.
I use the word tension because I currently cannot think of a better word. Tension usually carries with it a negative connotation, but in this case I am not using it that way. Rather, I employ it to describe simply an emotional pressure in one direction or the other, something along the lines of intensity or even passion. Wrath is often used in the Bible as a mistaken word chosen to translate a Greek word meaning passion. This is a word denoting intensity but not necessarily whether that intensity is positive or negative. In Revelation the same Greek word is used to describe the passion of the harlot riding the beast as well as the wrath of God. We don't generally assume that a harlot is full of wrath; that would not do well for her business. Unfortunately we also too often assume that God is not full of passion. But that is because of our many mistaken assumptions about God that have obfuscated the truth about His passionate love for us.
The more clearly we begin to discern the real truth about God's passion and embrace that truth the more readily we will begin to discern that passion all throughout the Bible. That is what I am seeing in this story, an intensity of desire on the part of the king to reverse the direction of the divisive tension preventing him from enjoying closer bonds with his servants. At the beginning of this story possibly all of his slaves were in debt to him and this debt not only involved money but words as well. His reputation had been serious damaged and undermined by the misrepresentations about him by at least some of his slaves, but likely most by this slave who owed him such an exorbitant amount.
The king wanted to change the direction of the emotional tension between himself and this slave from negative to positive, so after he got the slave's attention by threatening his legal options he frankly forgave him, released him and absorbed fully all the losses involved in the debt. All of this was in hopes that the heart of this slave might be induced to respond to the intensity of the positive attraction in the heart of the king. In effect, the king was seeking to change the polarity of the intensity of their emotions, not just eliminate them to neutral.
It was here that it occurred to me that one of the natural principles that might give me strong clues about this spiritual concept is the magnet. As most people know, the magnet has opposite poles that have inherent drawing or pushing properties depending on the condition of the other elements interacting with it. If a magnet comes within influencing distance of something with ferrous metal in it the magnet will draw the metal to itself. But when the other object takes on or already contains magnetic properties then other factors immediately come into play.
The phrase, 'opposites attract' is the rule of thumb used to describe how two magnets interact with each other. The power of attraction on the part of both magnets is intensified when the opposite poles of the magnets come near each other. This power is far greater than the drawing power of a magnet to a simple piece of iron. When opposite poles of two magnets come together it is nearly impossible to pull them apart. This reminds me of the kind of emotional bonding that God designed for our hearts to experience both with Him and with others in the body of Christ as we align ourselves in right orientation with His kingdom principles.
But the same principle has the opposite effect when you turn the pole around on one of the magnets. When you try to place magnets close to each other with the same pole types facing each other, the same power that previously attracted them intensely now works to keep them apart. This is the negative tension that I see at work in this story. Jesus is in essence presenting a story about a king who wishes to attract someone into closeness with himself through magnetic desire but finds that the one he seeks to draw to him with an overwhelming act of forgiveness seems repulsed instead of attracted.
That repulsion or resistance is evidenced in the way that this slave refuses to believe in the forgiveness given him and as a result his treatment of a fellow slave in similar debt to himself demonstrates the very opposite attitudes as to that which he encountered from the king. In essence, this slave was still oriented in the wrong direction to live in close fellowship with the king. Thus he was misrepresenting the king and living in wrong orientation to those around him and the result was contention and emotional distancing with all of them.
There is much more in this analogy that can be flushed out that I have not seen yet. But I am confident that this principle of nature can give me helpful insights into the issue of my own relationship with God. For one, I see the need to turn my magnet around to be properly oriented with God as a parallel to repentance. Repentance simply means to turn, and this certainly fits the magnet principle. Only by turning one of the magnets around 180 degrees can the power of repulsion be transformed into the power of attraction. One of the magnets has to 'repent' before they can come into close agreement with each other. And since God never changes that leaves only me that has to do all the reorienting.
If we continue to live in disbelief of the truth about God's unconditional forgiveness and love for us, in essence we are choosing to live in the wrong orientation of our hearts towards our Creator. No matter how much we may try to force ourselves to come closer to God, our hearts will increasingly feel negative pressure and will seek to find ways to get further away. I have noticed while playing with magnets how difficult it is to push them together in the wrong way. They feel very slippery and evasive the closer you push them together. This is a perfect example of our relationship with God. When we try to use force, fear, negative inducements, threats or anything else used by the counterfeit religious system we will find ourselves our of sorts with the heart of God. Then we assume the problem is with God when in reality the problem lies in our misapprehensions of the truth about God.
I now can see why Jesus was so insistent about our need to believe. Repeatedly He reminded people of the need to believe, to believe in Him, to believe in the Father. I wondered for many years what Jesus meant when He talked about this believing business because the religion I grew up with was so head-oriented and intellectual but was not rooted in a heart attraction. During those years my heart actually lived in a state of revulsion from God but I was so afraid of Him that I couldn't even admit that fact. Outwardly I was working very hard to be a good Christian while deep inside I was feeling the intense pressure of desires to run away from Him. I was constantly filled with guilt and condemnation and yet I was seeking to get closer to the God who seemed to be the source of all those feelings.
People have said to me many times that I need to repent. But when not placed in the proper context the whole idea of turning or repentance becomes useless. What are we to turn from or toward? Many are eager to promote their clichés about what this means but most of them remain useless if not worse. But viewing these matters from this angle makes far more sense than anything else I have ever heard.
Many other ideas are beginning to drop into place as I use this magnet analogy as a lens here. For instance, the words of Jesus to Simon in regards to their relationship in contrast to that of Mary suddenly make even more sense.
Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (Luke 7:47 NRSV)
There are other fascinating aspects of this I can see exploring. When you put magnets together in alignment they multiply their strength in unity. Magnets are used to produce electricity and there are many things I have noticed over the years that can be learned about spiritual truths in electricity. I am reminded of quotes from Ellen White speaking of the great circuit of benevolence in the universe. I can see better now that unless we align ourselves magnetically in the proper orientation with this circuit that we cannot participate in the flow of power that comes from God. In parallel, as we remain aligned with the powers of evil we find unity and resonance among those opposed to God which feels normal because it is in harmony with the fallen nature we were born with, inherited from our first parents.
In essence, what I am seeing in this story is the vital importance of being willing to reorient our hearts to align with the direction of power flow in the choice to embrace the forgiveness of God. Unless I am willing to change my thinking about God's unconditional love and forgiveness for me personally and allow it to transform my own heart, all my teaching and expostulating or anything else I do in the name of God or religion becomes useless to save my own soul. That is a frightening revelation as I am becoming more and more aware of how out of alignment I am with what I am uncovering here. I am in desperate need of a turning of my own heart as well as a revamping of my perceptions intellectually. I need to connect into God's goodness and love and forgiveness or I too will be found grabbing people by the throat and demanding repayments of various debts I believe they owe me.
Why do you fight and argue with each other? Isn't it because you are full of selfish desires that fight to control your body? You want something you don't have, and you will do anything to get it. You will even kill! But you still cannot get what you want, and you won't get it by fighting and arguing. You should pray for it. Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons. You people aren't faithful to God! Don't you know that if you love the world, you are God's enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you doubt the Scriptures that say, "God truly cares about the Spirit he has put in us"? In fact, God treats us with even greater kindness, just as the Scriptures say, "God opposes everyone who is proud, but he is kind to everyone who is humble." Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you people who can't make up your mind. Be sad and sorry and weep. Stop laughing and start crying. Be gloomy instead of glad. Be humble in the Lord's presence, and he will honor you. (James 4:1-10 CEV)
Notice that there are three parties involved here, at least if you count humans as one instead of divided against each other. We have us, we have God and the devil is mentioned here.
I believe God is here revealing a fascinating formula if you want to view it that way. If you apply the magnet concept to this passage it begins to take on all sorts of enlightening aspects.
If you think of us as a magnet between the two other parties contending for our affections/allegiance, the natural attraction or resistance of the magnets to each other suddenly reveals and reinforces what James is seeking to convey to us here. When we are in harmony with the attractions of Satan, our polarity is such that we have our opposite side towards God which creates a repulsion between us and him. No matter how much we may try to come closer to God by being a good Christian, all of our efforts only result at the heart level in feeling more and more discomfort and tension with His true character.
The problem is not that God does not want us to draw close to Him and move away from evil, but the underlying problem that first needs to be resolved is the polarization of our hearts. Not until we turn our heart magnets around and change the direction of our polarity in relationship to God and the devil will the principles demonstrated by magnets begin to work for us instead of against us.
When the magnet in the middle is reversed in its orientation, the natural laws of physics will cause a repulsion to the things of Satan and an attraction toward the heart of God. We will not longer have to work hard at trying to be good against endless resistance coming from inside of us. We will then begin to experience natural resistance to evil instead and will gravitate toward the things of God.
Additionally, the reinforcement principle will also begin to operate to assist us in this direction in our character development. Remember that when you put more than one magnet together in attractive orientation they add to each other's power. When we repent – turn our hearts around – and reverse our polarity toward God's heart, the passionate force that ever emanates from the heart of God reinforces our own new desires to live opposite to what we naturally desired previously and we find new impulses, desires and perceptions having more effect in our lives.
At the same time we also begin to experience more effective resistance to the things that used to be so attractive to us. This passage makes it clear that by first surrendering to God we will then have resistance toward the devil. This is simply describing a polarity change of the heart. When we are properly oriented in our hearts toward God then the natural forces at work will create resistance to the devil and he too will feel those forces at work pushing him away. He will also feel the repulsive forces of God's Spirit that are much more powerful in his realm flowing through us and he will flee from us as he senses God's Spirit dwelling in us.