Several years ago, my parents and nephews visited me here in Florida. They drove down from Mississippi to spend time with my family. Because I wanted to show them the beauty of our area, I decided to take them on a kayak trip down the Santa Fe River. The boys had not quite reached the preteen years, and were still young. One of them, Everett to be exact, refused to board his kayak. All manner of persuasions were tried, and all manner of persuasions failed. He had convinced himself that alligator hazards lurked around every bend, and that the drabness of the boat ramp was preferable to the dangers of the river. Ultimately, I had to drag him kicking and screaming onto the boat. But once we had glided down the river a bit, his attitude softened, and he realized that the boats and their captains were safe. He also realized that the beauty of the river, and the time with his family was worth the hazards. How we get to know Jesus can be a little like that.
A very controversial verse in the bible is John 6:44. It is there that Jesus declares that no one can come to him unless he is drawn by God. The Greek word for “to draw” in that verse is the same Greek word that means “to drag,” “to pull,” or “to haul,” with purpose (John 18:10, John 21:6, John 21:11, Acts 16:19, Acts 21:30, and James 2:6). Various kinds of Christians argue over the verse because some believe that it means God uses an external force to pull people into salvation whether they like it or not, and that there is no true free will, while others believe that the word means that God uses a gentle internal pulling or wooing to bring people to Jesus which can be resisted or even rejected.
I won’t get into the pre-salvation elements of that controversy given the confines of this short piece. However, I believe it is safe to argue that the principle of “dragging” easily applies on the saved side of salvation. God is continually making us more like Jesus using a variety of methods (Romans 8:28-29). He also disciplines us, and molds us like a father (Hebrews 12:6-7), or like a potter (Isaiah 64:8). In those instances, God brings us closer to Jesus by dragging us through difficult circumstances. The more we resist, the harder the drag will be. Once we are saved, he has promised to keep us until the very end (Philippians 1:6). We can either submit to his will and be led around, and see the beauty along the way (Psalm 25:4-10), or we can be dragged kicking and screaming to the same place in the same way that Jonah was (Jonah 1:1–Jonah 4:11). Either way, he’s going to finish what he started.