Persuasion and instruction depend on the parties involved sharing certain premisses, certain interests and values. Instructions on how to apply for a passport hold no interest for the complacent homebody. Someone arguing for a particular political system – democracy, for example – by showing how it advances the cause of personal freedom will have no persuasive influence on someone who places no value on personal freedom – a committed Marxist, for example.

The internet sometimes offers videos of people, deaf from birth or injury, receiving a new cochlear implant. What the videos show when the implant is activated is invariably heartwarming. The sounds of voices and music that once fell on deaf ears are suddenly sources of joy and wonder.

Being born from above is not a supernatural intervention, creating a new and innocent spirit. It’s a change of perspective that may or may not result from exposure to the Gospel truth, the truth of God’s unconditional love for all His children. It’s not a new creation ex nihilo; it’s a new receptivity to Christ’s instruction.

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