No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.
“No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father.” We cannot do it for ourselves – or for anyone else. It is a work of grace, God’s attractive power, not human pushing. In other times it was believed that we could be pushed into faith, or at least pushed towards it. But being pushed makes a person resist. It has often been said that if good were forbidden, more people would do it. The best way to move a person is to attract them, not to push them: we are more easily drawn from in front than driven from behind.
St Augustine commented on this verse, “He did not say lead, but draw. This ‘violence’ is done to the heart, not to the body.... Believe and you come; love and you are drawn. Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence. It is gentle, it is sweet; it is the sweetness that draws you. Is not a sheep drawn when fresh grass is shown to it in its hunger? Yet I imagine that it is not driven bodily on, but bound by desire. In this way too you come to Christ: do not imagine long journeying; in the very place where you believe, there you come. For to him who is everywhere we come by love, not by sailing.”
Attraction is always less clear and less satisfactory than compulsion, but that's our life. Jesus rejected the way of compulsion and chose the way of love. It is messier than any other, sometimes even chaotic. But the wisdom of the Gospel tells us it is the only one that has no trap built into it.
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