But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter one an aroma from death to death [a fatal, offensive odor], but to the other an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh].
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 AMP
Good morning! I want to highlight a few things from this section of Scripture in hopes that it will give us something to think about as we start the second week in May.
1. We have triumphed in Christ. This is so easy to forget in a world that feels so overwhelmed with evil. But therein lies the truth: it is only in this world that the enemy has any power, and that power disappears as we resist him and his advances (James 4:7). Ultimately we are assured of victory. In the face of worldly troubles, we can find hope, reassurance and ultimately peace in the knowledge of God. But it remains up to us to seek and live in that knowledge.
2. We are the aroma of Christ in the world. I’m not particularly fond of this truth, because it means that I bear responsibility for how others perceive Christ. And if I’m being very honest, I’m not the best PR for Jesus. I’m fallible, I’m bitchy, I’m selfish, I’m angry, I’m apathetic. This is probably why Paul used this metaphor of aroma. I graduated last week, and so I had the opportunity to sniff more than one nervous fart from my fellow graduates while in the auditorium. Not a pleasant experience! There’s something very visceral about our sense of smell; we react to it instinctively, scrunching up our noses when we smell something bad, or automatically following an alluring scent as it wafts past us. By using this image, Paul was calling to mind the fragrance of burnt offerings – those offered in the temple in Jerusalem and those offered on pagan altars. The question he’s very loudly not asking, is: What fragrance do we exude? What altar does it originate from? Because if it is any altar other than Christ’s, it’s the wrong one.
3. Not everyone is going to like the aroma of Christ. Paul explains that, to the “dead” (those who resist knowing Jesus, either through unbelief or legalistic faith), this “sweet fragrance of Christ” will smell like death. He’s not wrong: part of this “sweet fragrance” is the smell of our own funeral pyres, where we’ve left our egos, our pigheaded wilfulness to turn to ash. In becoming Christian, we surrender our hearts, minds and wills to God. To people who have not done that, that is going to look an awful lot like a threat – because where God is in control, we become “trophies of victory”. In living for Christ, someone is losing, and that someone isn’t us.
Lord, sweet is the aroma of a life lived in and for You! Make it desirable for me. Help me to find it more alluring than the stench of things that aren’t from You, things that distract me, confuse me, tempt me. You lead me in victory – help me to live my life like a victor, like someone who hasn’t got a whole lot to lose, and who will never be lost with You close by. Amen.
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