One of the wonderful things about the advent of Spring is the aromas of the flowers, trees, and newly mown grass. Even if you were blind, you could easily tell it is Spring just by the smells. However, I know for allergy sufferers the scents are a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the air is full of sweet aromas, but on the other hand, the air contains much pollen. (See this article about the abundance of pollen in the air around these parts.) As beautiful as Spring is, for those with allergies, it is a miserable time.
The Apostle Paul uses smell as a metaphor for the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. (II Corinthians 2:14-16a)
I remember the first time I smelled that aroma. It was when I became friends with a young woman while in high school. She was a believer and she was so different than anyone I had ever met. That aroma lingered with me as I entered college where I smelled it again; this time in even a more intense way as I met others who claimed to be followers of Jesus. It was a beautiful, appealing aroma to my lonely and longing heart. So, I drank it in and followed it to its source—Jesus.
Over my many years of following the Lord and ministering on campus in his name, I have seen many do the same as I once did—drink in the beautiful aroma of Christ. Yet, I have also seen many more repelled by that same scent. Like one with severe allergies, it represents a threat of suffering to them. As the allergy suffer fears the runny nose and the burning eyes, these folks fear suffering of a different sort—a depravation of fun, ridicule from friends and family, a drastic change in lifestyle, and a surrender of pride in being self-sufficient. Like the pollen that repels an allergy sufferer, Jesus often does the same to people.
We live in a time where we long for acceptance. We’re looking for ‘likes,” validation, and respect. The fact of the matter is if we have the aroma of Christ emanating from us, there will be many people who are repelled by the smell. They may avoid us, laugh at or ridicule us, or even abuse us in some way. That is the cost of following Jesus, and it was paid by the early Christians and by all of those who have followed in their footsteps of faith. It will be paid by us as well if we stay so near to Jesus that we smell like him.
This is the truth we need to embrace in the midst of our culture of admiration and validation. The only one we should seek to admire and validate us is the Lord. This then frees us to take the aroma of Jesus wherever we go instead of trying to mask his scent in places it might be unwelcome. The cost may be steep, but it’s worth it because we never know who might be drawn to Jesus until they get a whiff of that beautiful scent.
© Jim Musser 2019