Invitation not Coercion

I read a column by Margaret Silf in a recent issue of America Magazine speaks a simple but profound truth, that is, that “the spirit of the Gospel is a spirit of attraction, not coercion. Silf writes

A wise saying tells us that “God draws, the devil drives.” It follows that when our hearts are feeling drawn by the power of divine attraction, there God is at work; but if we are feeling the pressure of coercion, this is not of God. It is not hard to see the difference between human communities that revolve around a center of attraction, where love grows and draws, and those that rely on fences and demarcations that keep the flock within the prescribed boundaries. Where the spirit of love is the center of attraction, many will find their way to that center, drawn like iron filings to a powerful magnet.

I think Silf’s observation is an important one to remember for several reasons. First, it helps us in our own discernment of what is from God and what is not from God. Are we feeling drawn or are we feeling coerced?

Second, it helps us in our evangelization of others. Are we inviting or are we demanding? Are we radiating love or control? Do people look at us and see the pull of divine attraction?

The two are not unrelated. If we recognize God’s invitation and respond to it in the spirit in which it is extended – if we live in the Gospel spirit of attraction – others will respond to that. As Silf recognizes, “Where the spirit of love and warmth and light flows, people will always be attracted to its source.”