According to Dictionary.com, winsome means “sweetly or innocently charming; winning; engaging.” Today, it’s extremely common to hear Christians complimenting someone on their winsome words or personality. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being kind or meek, the church must come to understand that winsomeness is not part of the fruit of the Spirit. Certainly the reputation of being a jerk is not becoming of a Christian, but being people of the truth and communicating the truth in love is a missing reality in much of evangelicalism.
Consider two popular traps of winsomeness in the life of a Christian.
Winsomeness Can Prevent Real Community
One of the most beneficial aspects about the local church is the authenticity of the community itself. There is something unique about the community of the church in comparison to the culture around us. That authenticity is maintained by real relationships that include real and honest accountability. If the entire church walks around with a fake smile on and seeks to be charming and engaging rather than real and authentic—accountability is lost in the process.
A church that seeks to be winsome will often substitute accountability for charming engagement. This is the natural path of a group because it prevents any awkward moments or difficult conversations that are necessary in maintaining unity in the gospel. We must remember that fake unity is superficial and based on shallow connection points rather than the gospel itself which always probes deeper than the surface as it aims for the heart.
This is why Jesus commanded church discipline (Matt 18:15-20). Notice that Jesus did not suggest church discipline. This is why I do not recommend anyone joining a church that does not practice biblical accountability through real loving church discipline. As a church, we are not only to confront one another, but we are likewise to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). If winsomeness is the goal, honesty will likely be lost in the fog. The goal of winsomeness will often prevent honest confessions because people desire to be liked. This is a real danger to the winsome movement that has swept through evangelicalism.
Winsomeness Can Silence the Church’s Prophetic Tone
Today the tone police is working overtime. If you dare share the truth on social media, you will be muzzled, silenced, and cancelled. We are being conditioned by the mob to be winsome and nice to everyone. In the process, the church is being muzzled and the prophetic tone of is being policed.
It’s very common to hear Christians being lectured about their tone. For instance, how many times have you heard the following statements:
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
In recent days, you see articles appearing in evangelical circles that call into question how often we should anticipate God to raise up a Luther. In other words, it’s another way to extract the teeth of the lions among us. One must honestly ask if Samuel was winsome in his approach to Saul when he returned with King Agag as a prisoner. That was not his assignment. The hacking of Agag to pieces in front of King Saul was not exactly winsome (1 Sam 15).
The same thing could be said of Paul. When he confronted the idolatry of Ephesus and the surrounding areas declaring that the false gods made of silver are not gods at all, it created a massive disturbance. Demetrius gathered the silversmiths together and convinced them that Paul and his preaching was jeopardizing their business. This created a riot in Ephesus. Paul’s approach was not exactly winsome. He wasn’t coming into town like a snake oil salesman. He came thundering the truth—and his goal was to please God, not man.
For those who claim that Jesus was a meek and mild rabbi with a tenderhearted spirit—they have apparently not read much about Jesus from the pages of Scripture. Consider the following record of Jesus’ earthly ministry:
- Jesus’ preaching was confused with John the Baptist who thundered as a blazing prophet of God (Matt 14:1).
- Jesus pronounced woes on hypocrites (Luke 6).
- Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “vipers,” “fools,” “snakes,” “liars,” “blind guides,” “whitewashed tombs,” and “hypocrites.”
- Jesus pronounced woes on the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for their unbelief (Matt 11).
- Jesus cleared the temple court with a whip and overturned tables (John 2).
- Jesus pronounced judgment upon the religious leaders of Israel as greedy, self-indulgent, and “wicked sons of the devil”—claiming they “do not belong to God” (John 8; Matt 23).
- Jesus claimed to bring division rather than peace (Luke 12).
- Jesus referred to Canaanite people as “dogs” (Matt 15).
- Jesus said to Peter, “get behind me, Satan” (Matt 16).
- Jesus called the unbelievers an “unbelieving and perverse generation” (Luke 9).
- Jesus said he came to bring fire on earth (Luke 12).
- Jesus preached of the “hell of fire” for the unrepentant (Matt 18).
Any honest attempt to survey the ministry of Jesus would reveal that he was not aiming at winsomeness. As we live in a culture that is perverse and celebratory of sin—we as Christians should not remain silent. How can Christians approach a baby butchering, sodomite affirming, transgenderism happy, purposeful victimized culture through CRT/I with a winsome tone? True Christianity will speak to such cultural norms as abnormal and God-denying sins.
As Christians, we are called to be meek, but that does not mean weak. While the church is called to be a community of love, we must understand the definition of love provided in Scripture is far different than the shallow, sappy, sin affirming “love” of our present evil culture. True love confronts sin and refuses to affirm it. The world has conditioned Christian men to become feminized, soft, and nice. Today’s Christian man doesn’t know what it means to fight for his family or fiercely defend the truth.
Let the reader understand. I am not advocating a rough jerk-like Christianity that shows no compassion or refuses to be kind. The unchained polemics blogger can do more harm than good with his pen (or keyboard). What I am communicating in this article is that Christians aim higher than winsomeness. The fact is, we will not win the world through winsomeness. If your goal is to be so balanced that you’re attractive to the world, your balance is imbalanced. The church should be kind enough to speak the truth in love. The church should not be muzzled by a God-hating society. In order to be a light in a dark world, we must burn bright with truth. In order to speak the truth in love, we must speak up.
While Christians are to seek to be persuasive, that goal must not be seen as mutually exclusive with a commitment to the truth. As Christians, we are to be faithful and seek to persevere in the faith while speaking the truth and persuading people to flee from the judgment to come. While the Christian life is war, it’s likewise joyful. We press onward with confidence that the King is coming and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:8-9).