But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.
II Corinthians 2:14-16
One Sunday I was greeting a friend at church when she grinned and said, “Pastor Tom hugged you this morning, didn’t he?”
“He did,” I confirmed. It wasn’t a wild guess. Not many people got through the door without getting a hug from Pastor Tom.
“I could smell his aftershave,” she chuckled. Apparently the hugging pastor had his own distinctive ambience, and all he came into contact with took a little of that ambience with them. That got me wondering, can people tell I’ve been with Jesus by the way I “smell”?
After Jesus was arrested, people recognized Peter as one of His disciples by his accent. (Matthew 26:73) In the book of Acts it was written that people who saw the courage of the disciples took note that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) And in the passage above, Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that God spreads through us the fragrance of the knowledge of His Son.
So, the question is, are we (Christians) doing that? When we’re in the room, can people “smell Jesus”? Have we spent enough time with Him that His essence permeates our lives? Have we been embraced by Him, enveloped in His fragrance, – saturated in it – so that wherever we go we are the aroma of life to those who are called of God?
Another question – and here’s where it gets hard – are we the stench of death to those who are perishing? Are we so good at representing Jesus that those who hate and reject Him also hate and reject us? – And if so, are we okay with that?
I think with all my early insecurities and fear of other people’s opinions, I had as an unspoken goal of having everyone like me. There were a few times I seemed to have succeeded. I have memories of summer camp in my middle school years, sharing a cabin with girls who were prone to be drama queens on occasion. I remember more than once hearing a young lady wail in despair, “Everybody hates me! … except Ann!” (I doubt it had anything to do with any virtue on my part, just an unwillingness to get in the middle of an adolescent cat-fight.)
But for the mature Christian, being liked by everyone and avoiding others’ disapproval is not the goal.
On the contrary, if everyone likes us, it’s a pretty sure sign we’re doing something wrong.
Jesus told His disciples ahead of time,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)
Apparently, not everyone is going to appreciate the fragrance we carry with us from belonging to Jesus. With all of the beautiful promises He has given us, there’s also the promise that we will be persecuted for His sake. Being rejected and hated could very well be a sign that we’re doing something right.
But persecution is not something we should go looking for! We’ve all met people who act like jerks and then, when others respond in kind, take it as a sign that they are righteous people being persecuted. Let’s not kid ourselves.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:15, 16)
Although we can’t expect everyone to love us, or even like us, this does not excuse us from Jesus’ command to love everyone, even our enemies!
“But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
It isn’t up to us to decide who is going to be saved and who is going to reject Christ’s offer of salvation forever. God can do surprising things, and sometimes the last person you expect to surrender his life to Jesus is the one who is transformed seemingly overnight and taking the world by storm – if the Christians around him don’t blow it by acting un-Christlike.
So, I for one want to spend ample time each day, as early in the day as possible, in the presence of Jesus. I want to be able to come away from my prayer time filled with His light and saturated with His fragrance, so that as I go about my day, I can bring His presence with me, so that He can impact lives around me in any way He sees fit to do.
In other words, our job is to spend time in the Lord’s presence and walk in His Spirit. If we do this, wherever we go we will carry His aroma to those around us. Whether that’s the aroma of life or the stench of death is up to them.
Prayer: Lord, I delight in You; give me the desires of my heart – the desire for more of You: to see Your face, to hear Your voice, to feel Your embrace, and to have my heart beat in sync with Yours. I want to smell Your fragrance and be enveloped in it, saturated with it, so that wherever I go I will be the aroma of life to those You are calling – even if it means being the stench of death to those who are perishing. May I not be hated for being a despicable person, doing despicable things, or even as an obnoxious person. But if I am hated for being Yours and for being like You, I will wear that rejection as a badge of honor, in Jesus’ name. Amen.