The Aroma of Christ
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (ESV) -- For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
Smells trigger reactions. Any smell out of the ordinary causes us to delight or scowl. A bad odor leaves people gasping for air and wincing in disgust. A wonderful smell causes people to close their eyes and enjoy the aroma of whatever it is. I remember walking through the streets of Chicago once and passed by a vent in the side of a building that was blowing warm hot air that smelled like Heaven. It was as if this vent went straight into the presence of the Lord. It was wonderful. It was Garrett Popcorn. I entered the store immediately.
Smells are powerful. The passage we are looking at today explores this from a perspective of people’s reactions to Christians and the gospel. We read in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?”
Paul writes that “we,” Christians, are the aroma of Christ to God. This means that our presence is the aroma of Jesus in the world. Our lives, words, and values serve as an aroma for Jesus Himself in their presence. Those who are saved love the smell. The smell corresponds to their own commitments as Christians. But for many, the aroma is the smell of death. It is a stench that repulses them. The aroma of Christ for unbelievers stands as a contrast to their rebellion. They don’t like it. They don’t want reminders of their obstinance and sin.
This reminder helps us to stay the course in a world that will not universally accept us. We will not win respectability from everyone because we are the stench of death to them. This is why it is futile to think we can winsomely overcome this hurdle with unbelievers. They hate what we stand for. They cannot stomach how we live and think. They hate our ethical standards and expectations for pleasing God. As Christians, we must be okay with this response from the world. Other Christians will love us because they love the truth, but the unbelieving world will not. We smell like death to them. This is what it means to live daily as the aroma of Christ. Do you reflect Him in the world around you?
Reflection & Journal:
- Why do smells produce such strong responses from people?
- How does Paul use this phenomenon of smell to talk about Christians in the world?
- What important lessons does this teach you about living faithfully as a Christian today?
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