Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…You can’t help how you smell.
This morning I was riding my motorcycle to work and I had a mind-blowing experience. A bit of a funny paradox really. As I rode along the two-lane highway that leads to the church, I passed by a place where there are eight chicken houses on one side of the road and a smoke-pit, barbecue style restaurant on the other. As I rode by they were cleaning out at least one of the chicken houses and the smokers were going full tilt on the other side of the road. With each inhaled breath I could smell two distinctly different things. The stench of chicken manure coming from the one side of the road, and the pleasing aroma of hardwood smoke permeating various meats, most certainly chicken among them, from the other. Talk about a surreal olfactory before and after! For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps I had located the center of the universe. One nostril collecting the odor live chickens produce, the other savoring the aroma of the same creature well-done! Weird.
What is weirder yet is that experience reminded me of a few verses from the bible. I know, sometimes I don’t understand me either. The scripture is found in a version I like to read called the Disciples Literal New Testament. I like this translation because it doesn’t really burden itself with ensuring good English sentences. It was scripted with a much greater emphasis placed on literal translation from the original Greek into modern day English. I enjoy that because from it I get a bit more of the original meaning and the subtle literary enrichments penned by the Apostles.
The verses I was reminded of come from 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 it says, But thanks be to God, the One always leading us in triumph in Christ, and making the aroma of the knowledge of Him known through us in every place. Because we are the fragrance of Christ for God among the ones being saved, and among the ones perishing. To the ones an aroma from death to death, but to the others an aroma from life to life.
I was reminded of this scripture because it speaks about differing smells coming from the same thing, just like the opposing aromas I encountered on my “before-and-after chicken” motorcycle ride. Have you ever noticed how we seem to have a different effect on different people? From one person you might to elicit smiles and friendly conversation, while from another a downcast countenance and curt responses. If you are like me at all, you just know it can’t be you, certainly you treated them both with equal concern, and so you scour your recollection of your words and actions looking for some way to make sense of their differing responses. Oh well, maybe some of them just ‘got up on the wrong side of the bed.’
As time goes on though, perhaps like me, you notice that these indiscernible differing responses seem to be a pattern. You may have already decided from enough soul searching that it certainly isn’t an intended offence coming from your direction. So what is it? If it is not what you are saying, and it isn’t how you’re treating people. What could it be? Do you smell bad? Maybe.
The scripture I was reminded of today offers one interesting possibility. As Christ followers, we are different. There is a pronounced “before and after” that has taken place in our lives. In the past our lives produced the putrid results of sin, but after we “Died to sin with Christ, (Galatians 5:24) accepting him as our Lord and Savior, we are now being perfected in Him, looking forward to the day we will hear that our lives have been determined “well done” (Matthew 25:21).
While we live in the same world that those who don’t know Him do, our reactions to that world and all of its difficulties are different than theirs…or at least they should be. Galatians 2:20 in the New Living Translation, another of my favorites tells us My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Because Christ lives in us, we have the ability to live above our difficulties, troubling circumstances, and imperfect lives. By the power of Christ living inside of us, our lives though not trouble free, are not…or at least should not be…a reflection of our circumstances. We have, as the first scripture I mentioned points out the ability to always be led in triumph by Christ. Our lives should illustrate that Christ living through us causes us to look like we are winning personally and spiritually when physically we are playing the same losing game everyone else is. That kind of life, the kind that lets Christ and His power shine through us is described as having a delicious smell to God. He is pleased when we let His Son thoroughly permeate us because it causes us to smell good to Him too. It’s the fragrance of Christ…but it’s coming from us.
This wonderful spiritual fragrance doesn’t have the same effect on everyone’s nose. To God we smell great! To other Christians we smell great! To people who are seeking Christ, we smell surprisingly good. But…to those who live in darkness, those who have no desire to know Christ and turn the decisions of their life over to Him…we smell like decaying flesh, like a rotting corpse, like a pile of fresh manure I passed by on my motorcycle this morning. To those people, we reek!
But don’t let that discourage you. Paul says stinking can be a good thing. Our offensive odor of death will cause some people to realize the putrid smell is really coming from them. It is their sin, their bent on death, that stinks, and it is only in the presence of the wonderful, delicious fragrance of Christ that their ‘smell of death’ becomes apparent to them. It is that very sinful stink that may cause them to desire the freshness of a new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ensures, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. But as Paul says, this is really an awesome responsibility we have. We must never water down Christ in our lives in an attempt to avoid offending anyone. We have to stay the course…allow Christ to shine (or smell) through us…full strength, so that in and through our lives He can do the work in us and in others that He intends to do.
So don’t worry if some people think you stink, that is a foregone conclusion. Instead, be intent on letting your life be a sweet smelling aroma to God. After all Christ has done in your life you have no business looking or smelling like you did before.
So now, letting the fragrance of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice emanate through your life no matter what others think about it…look and smell like Jesus…and go be awesome!