We work hard every day not to stink. We shower with scented soap, wash our hair with perfumed shampoo, put on clothes dried with fabric fresheners, use deodorant, brush our teeth with minty toothpaste, and end with a splash of cologne or perfume. It’s offensive to smell bad. So what do we make of Paul’s comment in Corinthians, where he states that God, “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
If we are being used by God to ‘spread the knowledge of his aroma everywhere’, we will be the ‘aroma of death’ to those who don’t believe. And people will react! Our culture has become more hostile to the gospel than at any time in our nation’s history. My little campaign against the decision by Alaska Airlines to stop putting prayer cards on meal trays brought that to the surface. It seems a growing number of our fellow Americans are hoping to go through life without ever having a reference to God come into their ‘private space’. When suddenly even the most innocent of words appear in a place they didn’t expect, and they have to at least consider the idea of ‘God’, they are highly offended. They are vocal about their offense and their voices are given great weight.
Their target is ‘religious people’ who don’t have the decency to keep their faith to themselves. Their power to silence Christian witness in our culture is growing considerably. How do we respond? Well, we are coming to the same crossroads that generations before us have faced. We either choose to be silent and avoid confrontation, or we make the decision to stink! That is, we choose to let the aroma of Christ so flow through us by the power of the Holy Spirit that everyone around us notices the smell. To some, it will be the sweet smell of forgiveness, peace, and joy that will bless them with the abundant life in Christ. For so many others, it will be the stench of political incorrectness which they will label as intolerance or religious bigotry.
Such is the aroma of Christ. It is a message of love and grace that ends up being shockingly divisive in a world that so hates the mention of God in any form that it will protest the presence of a psalm of thanksgiving accompanying a meal. Paul is right, stinking is hard. “Who is equal to such a task?” Only those who allow themselves to be filled with God’s Spirit through full submission. Only God can empower us to live fully for him and speak clearly the gospel he came to proclaim to ‘all nations.’
What will it mean for you to be such an aroma of Christ today, regardless of how others may react to the smell?