“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
We recently purchased a new house–our first. We are pretty excited about it still. Before we could move in, there was quite a bit of work to do including taming the jungle the previous couple of owners had allowed to grow up in the backyard. With some excellent and most appreciated help from several of the men in our church, we got that and whole lot of other work finished.
On the first work day, after hauling off seven dump truck loads of brush, we finally decided (at the suggestion of the assistant fire chief who had been the one doing all the hauling) to burn the rest. Before long, we had quite a fire going. As my father-in-law and I managed it for the next few hours, it gradually burned down into a manageable size that could be safely left to slowly smolder itself out over a few days.
When we got home later, though, everything we had on smelled like smoke. Everything. We were smoky from head to toe and into our skin. We had been so bathed in smoke that everywhere we went, anyone who got within a few feet of us would know that we had been near a fire for several hours.
This same thing, according to Paul here, is a little like what God wants to accomplish through us when it comes to spreading the knowledge of Jesus. Paul says that God works to spread the fragrance of Christ through His followers everywhere we go. No matter where we are, there should be no doubt that we have been near Jesus. People should be able to learn a little about who He is and that He is someone worth giving at least a bit of their attention just by getting near us.
There are two important things that need to happen if we are going to do this well; if we are going to be able to be effective fragrance-spreaders. The first is that we’ve got to be close enough to Jesus to get all covered in His fragrance. When we had that fire burning at our new house, if I had tended it from the front yard, or even from only 20-30 feet away, perhaps you could have smelled the smoke on me if you got close enough, but not otherwise. Instead, I spent quite a bit of time close enough to the fire that my clothes were just nearly beginning to smolder. It was hot enough I had to turn away several times because my eyes were burning. As a result, I reeked of smoke. My jacket smelled like smoke even after washing it. I had to hang it outside for a couple of days just to get the smell out.
If we are going to carry the fragrance of Jesus with us well, we’ve got to spend a great deal of time close enough to Him for it to stick. This means spending consistent time in the Scriptures, practicing the spiritual disciplines regularly, praying without ceasing, fellowshipping regularly with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for the sake of encouragement and accountability, and the like. If people can’t smell Jesus on us from a distance, we’re not doing it right.
The other important thing is this: We’ve got to be sure the aroma of Jesus we are carrying with us is an attractive one. A few months ago, the house two doors down from us burnt to the ground. Along the way it produced a lot of smoke. That smoke did not smell good. And we were covered in it. On the other hand, when I have occasionally cooked something like ribs on our grill, I smelled like smoke by the time I finished. More than just smoke, though, I smelled like cooking meat (well-cooked meat if I do say so myself). That smoke smelled good (although Lisa still told me to take a shower when I was finished).
Have you ever been around somebody who is thoroughly churched, very excited about it, and a pain in the neck? I once stood in line at the license bureau and listened as a guy in front of me who in all likelihood would have claimed proudly to be a follower of Jesus, he made an awful joke to the girl helping him about “heathens going to Hell” and guffawed heartily as she looked on uncomfortably. The worst part was, I agreed with the basic premise of the theology he was espousing. He simply presented it so offensively, no one–including me–wanted anything to do with him. That’s a stinky Jesus smell. We don’t want that. If we are going to smell like Jesus, let us make sure it is because we reek of love and mercy and grace and compassion and hospitality and the like.
Most of all here, and again to echo Paul, God wants to use us to spread the fragrance of Jesus everywhere. Let us make sure we are effective diffusers.