by Mike Ratliff
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, (Matthew 10:16-17)
Winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.
Sometimes I feel like I am walking a tightrope. The Spirit-led walk is truly balanced; however, it is hard work to stay balanced. On one hand we are told we must be wise and discerning because men are evil, but at the same time we must stay harmless, winsome and engaging. Jesus said we must not strike back. Instead, we are to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) We are to be that winsome person who reflects Christ’s character to everyone.
What is Christ’s character like? We are living this Spirit-led life as God renovates our hearts unto Christ-likeness, but what is it really? I heard a sermon about this one time. The preacher said to look at the way the world operates and do the opposite. That would how God wants us to live. Well, I want a better definition than that.
The Winsome heart does not drive away the unlovely. It smiles and loves its enemies. It does not hate anyone. It does not revile anyone. Its essence is one of innocence and charm. It is humble yet engaging. Carefully read the following excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)
No matter how nasty people are to us, our Winsome heart must respond. I believe this is the hardest thing for me to grasp. As I do my self-examination, I see clearly that this is where I fail the most. My heart is not as winsome as Christ wants it to be. I am constantly coming up against circumstances challenging me. What is the root of non-winsomeness? Pride is the root. Where does it grow? It is rooted in the sorry, sour, rocky soil of a hard heart. Oh no! That means when I have pride issues I am revealing that my heart still has a long way to go in becoming tender.
Here is some encouragement. Over the past several months, I have come up against many unreasonable or incompetent people and well over half of them have gone away stunned at the tenderness and forgiveness they received from me. I was even more stunned than they were. However, there are still some I respond to like a real Soul-led self-protective fleshly person. I repented each time and returned to going hard after my Lord. Through it all, I learned something very valuable.
Having a Winsome heart is not something we can try to do. The only way is to be totally Spirit-led, fully armored, focused entirely on the Lord and His glory, which of course results in becoming Spirit-filled. The Winsome heart is a Spirit-filled heart. It is a heart led and controlled by the Holy Spirit. This heart is not self-focused at all. Failure, resulting in non-winsomeness, happens when we are self-focused. When we are bent on attaining self-gratification, we are self-focused. When we are concerned more about our own image than Christ’s, we are self-focused. When we are actively building our own kingdom, rather than walking in His, we are self-focused. We must stop being self-focused. We must become and stay Spirit-led.
The Winsome heart makes no sense to the world. What happens when we respond to affronts to our character with love and forgiveness? It blows people away. When we blush at their crude jokes and simply turn away they may become insulted, but we do not respond in like manner. Instead, we simply engage them in edifying and God glorifying talks. The Winsome heart appears to be naïve to the world, but it is not. Instead it is as wise as a serpent, but as harmless as a dove. It does not attack. It does not try to retaliate. Instead, it returns good for evil. This level of maturity is a marker for the Mature Christian. The Adult Christian will be going through all of the cutting, chiseling, and grinding it will take to develop a Winsome heart. It is a work in progress.
The Winsome heart is not timid. It is bold. Timidity is an outcome of pride on the defense. Boldness is an outcome of genuine humility. A winsome, bold heart is a powerful combination. It results in a believer who will remain faithful in the face of persecution and rejoice when it happens.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew 5:10-12)
The world does not understand this. Have you noticed how the world tries to use force to silence Christians? Threats, beatings, prison, and even murder are rampant in the growing church everywhere in the world except the West. I promise, however, those in the West will suffer persecution if they become the Spirit-led radical believers God wants us all to be. Those Soul-led believers mired in religiosity are no threat to the world and its ways so there is little persecution. However, when we live out our lives in Spirit-led Christ-likeness, watch out!
How should we react when we are persecuted for living for Jesus? We should rejoice and count ourselves as blessed. Only the Winsome heart can rejoice in the face of persecution. What about when we simply come across unreasonable or incompetent people? How should we treat them? I believe this is marker we should observe in our hearts to measure our godliness. When we can react to this type of treatment the way Jesus would, then I would say we have matured a great deal. We may have crossed that threshold that separates the Adult Christian stage from the Mature Christian stage.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.