It’s not a term often used for the people of God as a whole.
Individually – yes – I know many attractive Christians – beautiful, winsome, comely, handsome, noble.
As a whole, though – old-fashioned, bigoted, misogynistic – these perhaps would be the politer words in use. Gandhi used the term “Jesus’ leprous bride” and one feels that with recent and on-going scandals of child abuse, much angrier and vitriolic depictions are being employed.
All of which is a long way from the intention of God for his people.
Paul in his letter to Titus talks about the people of God ‘adorning’ his message. (ch 2.9)†. In Jeremiah, the people of God are likened to those who should be like a high-fashion, high-cost, high-staus sash that attracts admiration and renown for its wearer. (Jer 13.1-11) The fact that this sash was then left to rot in a hole for several months (to show how the people of God were actually shaping up) means that a low reputation for God’s people is not a new phenomenon.
There is a fascinating moment in the dedication of the temple that shows a fundamental assumption of the Bible. God will attract the prayers and worship of those who do not yet know him. This is a part of the prayer that Solomon prays:
1 Kings 8:41-43 New International Version – UK
‘As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name – for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm – when they come and pray towards this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling-place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
Solomon says ‘These people who are not yours – WHEN they come, for they WILL hear of your name and your strength, answer their prayers, that your fame and renown will increase’ – a great moment of universalism in the Old Testament (some would even say the greatest, though Isaiah might disagree).
In terms of mission, this assumption is both uplifting and energising. There are people praying around us – people who are not yet Christians, yet they are still reaching out to God. There are people saying ‘thank you’ to God – for moments of beauty, peace or joy – who are not part of any faith group. They are spiritually seeking and they are being attracted by the God who seeks them.
Its also a challenging assumption.
It means that we need to be an ‘attractive people of an attractive God.’
In other words not an un-appealing people, un-attractive, un-welcoming or un-wholesome.
To be an unlikely people is OK, unfashionable is possible (some would say inevitable!), un-assuming is good, un-prejudiced is better.
This is not about facial regularity, manicures, skin-tone or air-brushed imperfections. This is about authenticity, spiritual health, good will – and most of – it’s about God’s love and life in us and through us.
There are people already reaching out to our attractive God.
God, help us to be part of your reaching out to them.
For your comments – what would you add to an un-words list – either side of that divide?
† for this insight and for lots more on this thought of the people of God attracting attention to an attractive God, see ch 8, of Christopher Wright’s ‘The Mission of God’s People,’ Zondervan, 2010.