Saturday evening we pulled back into our garage after a two-week vacation. And as soon as we opened the van doors, we could tell something had happened while we were gone — and the first thought was that the cat had brought an “offering” to us and that sacrifice was decaying in a hidden place.
Yesterday morning I figured out the source of our problem. We had a large, open trash bag in the garage in which we’d stored some packing material for future use. While we were away, an animal had crawled (slithered??) into the bag and had been unable to get back out and had died in that bag and was now in a serious state of decomposition (there’s nothing like the smell of a rotting animal to awaken your senses!).
The dead animal (I didn’t bother to investigate what it was — I just tied up the bad and put it in the trash can) was a reminder that everything and everyone has some kind of fragrance that it leaves behind.
For the believer, there is a fragrance of God that comes through our lives —
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor 2:14–16)
Paul makes three comments about the believer’s aroma — the “smell” and nature of his fellowship with God. First, God is the source of his sweet aroma. As Paul says at the end of these verses, “who is adequate for these things?” It is not in the natural ability of a man to manifest a godly pleasantness and transformation and it is not innate to man to be able to minister the truth of God to others. Such change and such service is only possible through the empowering work of God.
Secondly, the nature of the aroma is the knowledge of Christ. And more specifically it is knowledge of Christ and his atoning work, as in Ephesians 5:2 Paul connects this aroma to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. But how is death something that is sweet? (I can assure you, I have no interest in purchasing any Eau De Dead Critter in the future!) As one writer has noted, a fragrant aroma
pictures the smoke of the offering as it ascended heavenward and was an apt symbol of the acceptability of the sacrifice with God. Thus Christ by His love sacrificed Himself for man’s redemption, and this won the full approval of God. Men can never duplicate the atoning aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, but they can and must follow after His example in demonstrating the love of God.”
So, the death of Christ is a sweet aroma to God because it was a voluntary sacrifice and work of submission to the plan of God. And what God is working in us is the same kind of sacrificial service and work for Him. As we are obedient to His divine purposes for us, then we please Him and He delights particularly in us and the aroma of our lives.
Thirdly, our lives emanate an odor not only to God, but also to those around us. When we walk in obedience to Christ, we provide an aroma to other believers around us, stimulating them to similar service and to hope in the culmination of their salvation in the glorification to come. And we also demonstrate an aroma to unbelievers, reminding them of their dead condition and offering hope to them of the redeeming and life-giving work of Christ to make them really live.
The lesson is that in all things, we are giving off an aroma that characterizes the nature of our lives. What do you smell like today?