The word “winsome” is not in the Bible. Yet it’s worth pondering this old-fashioned concept as it relates to the witness of the modern-day church.
A winsome life is attractive and inviting, exactly the sort of life every Christian should aim to lead.
Following the Friend of Sinners
Christians are called to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. So, by definition, a winsome Christian life is far from carefree or easy.
And yet, walking with Jesus should be attractive. If following him by faith is what we were created to do—if it is, in fact, the only way to true happiness—then taking those steps should resonate deep in our soul. And those looking on should sense and long for that same resonance.
Jesus himself was winsome. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners when religious leaders of the day stood at a distance. Pharisees made their way to him covertly—they did not want to be seen talking to this rabbi, but they knew God was with him (John 3:1–2).
Though modern efforts to make Christianity attractive tend to downplay sin, Jesus’s winsomeness was not permissive in this same way. Jesus was more focused on bringing people into his kingdom than keeping them out. He was (and is) an inviting king.
Our lives will not be winsome in exactly the same way—Jesus pointed people to himself, after all, and we dare not point to ourselves. But as we walk closely with Jesus, our lives will share his inviting fragrance.
Sadly, many Christians today are anything but winsome. Instead, they are fearful, angry, and scolding. They delight in division. They have aligned their faith so thoroughly with a political party that they question the salvation of anyone who casts a dissenting vote.
In the minds of some, the appropriate response to a pluralistic culture is to view the church as a castle. Dig the moat, raise the drawbridge, and load the cannons. Every question is an attack, and the arrows are always flying.
It’s hard to imagine this always-suspicious, bared-teeth approach drawing many people to worship the Savior of the world.
Love with Integrity
The way of the world is to attract through power and possessions. A winsome Christian is attractive in an entirely different way.
She is generous and honest, joyful and compassionate. She is quick both to grant and to seek forgiveness. She is humble and hospitable, eager to listen. Her trust in the Lord is the strength of her spine, palpable and sure. Whether the waters of her life are smooth or stormy, she has a sure hope for the future.
She loves God with integrity, talking about him often. Her neighbors—not only the ones who agree with her—know she cares deeply and prays for them.
Winsomeness is Not the Goal
Winsomeness is not a set of activities but a posture. It comes naturally to those who seek Jesus by his Spirit.
If we focus on winsomeness, we will become performers, constantly wondering how we look to others. Diagnostic questions about winsomeness are best asked periodically, looking back over time, perhaps with a friend. A life that is not winsome points to other issues that should be unearthed.
Put differently, winsomeness is not the main goal, and we cannot even make it happen. Rather, winsomeness is the God-given fruit of faithfully seeking the Lord. When the fruit is missing, there is something wrong with the tree.
A Welcoming Heart
A winsome Christian pursues the Lord with thanksgiving, knowing that his welcoming heart will beat through all their interactions.
Now doesn’t that sound attractive?