When I was growing up, my father enjoyed a very unique and rather smelly sandwich called a “stinky”. For those who are unfamiliar with this sandwich, it is made with a big slice of Limburger cheese and red onion on pumpernickel bread. Yes. For most individuals, a stinky is something that would find its way into a garbage can or, better yet, a nuclear waste dump. If it was on a menu, most would pass it up very quickly and ask if people really order it. To my dad, it was the best sandwich in the world. He also enjoyed eating raw oysters.
As a young man, I didn’t care for either of those things. Just the mere thought of raw oysters or a stinky would have me holding my nose or commenting on how disgusting both are. After growing up, I found myself enjoying both. Like most things in life, we acquire a taste for certain things that we once shied away from. We find that what we didn’t like soon becomes something we enjoy and want more of.
The reason I am sharing this story with you is to illustrate a point that Paul made in his second letter to the Corinthians. I found that the story and what Paul said in chapter two were an interesting parallel.
Paul writes, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?”
Christians remind non-believers of the stench of death and doom. For them, the smell of death and doom is always present. No matter how hard they push them out of their minds, the images keep coming back. When we face our mortality in some way like a car accident that we nearly avoided or another major tragedy, we begin to wonder about our mortality and then begin to wonder what comes after death. When individuals start to do that, a shiver runs up and down their spines. It is a question that has plagued men and women since we walked out of the garden.
Just as Paul points out, believers smell things a little differently. We don’t smell the stench of death and doom. The fragrance we smell is that sweet, sweet smell of life and salvation. Remember when you first met a Christian who wanted to witness to you, most of us do and would say that it was a very awkward moment. When someone brings up salvation, most people tend to duck away very quickly. We just don’t realize at the time how important that moment really is for us.
But, over time, our perspectives begin to change. What was something we didn’t even want to consider has become something that has allured us. We are drawn to the message and that sweet perfume of salvation. We find it pleasing and want to be around it more and more.
Paul, in chapter four of his letter to the Philippians, describes it this way, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
The saved are drawn to not only the life-giving perfume but they are also drawn to those things that are excellent and worthy of praise. As we continue to grow spiritually and become more Christ-like, we, too, give off that fragrance that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father and also to other Christians. Others who once only knew of doom and gloom will, like bees swarming to the sweet smell of flowers, be drawn to the gift of salvation.
That sweet fragrance of life is to be shared with others especially those who do not believe. We are not to keep it for ourselves. It is to fill the air and give joy to those who seize about its scent.
In order to be a pleasing fragrance to God, we must live our lives as Christ would. We must not shirk our responsibilities to be obedient and worship God.
The Lord, in chapter six of the Book of Jeremiah, says, “Listen, all the earth! I will bring disaster on my people. It is the fruit of their own schemes, because they refuse to listen to me. They have rejected my word. There’s no use offering me sweet frankincense from Sheba. Keep your fragrant calamus imported from distant lands! I will not accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices have no pleasing aroma for me.”
This is not only pleasing to the Lord but the life-saving perfume to those around us. We must not just follow the laws for the sake of following the laws. Our hearts and actions must always have the purest of intentions. Each act done must be done out of love for the Father and His children.
For those reading these words, I ask you to begin changing your perspective. Those things that you didn’t want to consider should now fill your heart. You should be seeking out the sweet aroma of salvation. When you do and you take the first steps to having a relationship with the Lord, you, too, will be a fragrance that rises up to Him and is pleasing. That first step will allow you to stand firm in His grace daily.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.