Out of all our senses our sense of smell is one of the most powerful and difficult to ignore. A strong smell will overwhelm our senses and turn our thoughts towards its source. The aroma of something cooking on the stove will drive our thoughts towards eating. The smell of food will arouse hunger within us. On the other hand, the stench of something revolting will have us running to another room to escape or removing the source of the offensive fragrance.
Recently I learnt about how our sense of smell is connected closely to our memory. The first time we smell something our brains will store a strong memory of our thoughts, emotions and the environment around us. This is why particular smells can trigger particular thoughts and emotions. The first time we smell something has an impact on our attitude and response to that smell for the rest of our lives. The connection between our memory and our sense of smell is an important biological feature. If you eat something that makes you sick, the next time you detect that same smell it will trigger the memory of how it made you feel last time prompting you to steer clear.
What has this got to do with Jesus? In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 the bible says
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the stench death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”
If you are not a follower of Jesus and you happen to be reading this there is a chance that you think Jesus stinks. At some stage in your life you caught of whiff of something that you didn’t like and now your senses are telling you to steer clear of Jesus, the church and the whole Christianity thing. Perhaps to you Jesus smells like the stench of death. But maybe the thing that you smelled wasn’t really the fragrance of Jesus at all, maybe it was the stench of the brokenness and sinfulness of humans who claim to represent him.
Let’s face it, fowl smelling things have been carried out by people who claim to follow Jesus. Crusades, child abuse and judgemental behaviour just to name a few all produce an unbearable stench. Even with these big stinkers aside, us Christians have often behaved in generally stinky ways towards other people at times as well. Perhaps what you caught of whiff of isn’t how Jesus smells at all. Perhaps our own bad smell got in the way of you being able to perceive Jesus. We who follow Jesus are in the process of having God deal with the stench of our sin and brokenness so that we smell more and more like Jesus.
So if you think Jesus stinks I urge you to have another smell. What is the fragrance of Jesus really like?
He is the aroma of life.
Through him is life to the full
Through him is life eternal.
And If you are a follower of Jesus doing your best to present Christ to the world with your words and your life, don’t lose heart. There will be those that smell Jesus and think he just stinks. Allow God to continue to work your own stench out and the aroma of Christ in. Keep doing your best to present the aroma of life in Jesus to the world.
I learned some time back that when they make aftershave they combine smells that unfold as you experience the aroma. The initial smell is supposed to be a strong kick to the teeth, a bit like corroding body, just to wake up your snout, it’s what unfolds after that initial greeting that is really on sale. That’s what’s worth the big bickies.
It’s like that with Jesus, initially you have to follow him, die to yourself, then the unfolding life is complex and lovely and worth everything.
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