BY JORDAN MAYER
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,”
(2 Corinthians 2:15)
For those that know me well, they know my strong affinity for freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked bread. Apart from the taste, the smell of both these items is next to none (in my humble opinion). On my trip out to Seattle a few months ago, I got to enjoy both these scents, the former at a Starbucks coffee roastery and the latter at a small, local bakery. No sooner did I walk through the door before my nose was greeted by deep, rich, and warming scents.
Smell is an interesting part of our five senses. We have receptors that take in these smells and send them up to our brain. This process alone is amazing to think about and a wonder of God's design. But what also fascinates me are all the other things that are tied up in what we smell. There are memories, experiences, feelings, and emotions triggered by the things that we smell. Often we can attach specific moments in our lives or specific people to a particular smell, some more or less desirable than others I’m sure!
Aromas are powerful. They invite visceral experiences. Before you may see, hear, touch, or taste something, you might smell it first. Smell can also be a potent enhancer for our other senses. That's why I find it interesting that Paul chooses to use the word "aroma" in this passage. Paul is calling two images to mind.
First, the people of his day would be familiar with the Roman victory parades. After a successful campaign, the "heroes" would often be honored with a parade through the streets. Part of these processions included the burning of incense, the literal smell of victory wafting through the air. For us as believers, because of the work of Christ, we walk as victors through this world bearing witness of Him who conquered both sin and death.
It also calls to mind the sacrifices of old. We see this word as part of a repeated phrase in the Old Testament: “a pleasing aroma”. This referred to an acceptable offering given to God, one that is pleasing to His metaphorical “nose”. Though nowadays we are not offering up a ram in our backyard, we are still sending up offerings to God. It is the offering and sacrifice of ourselves and our lives for His honor and glory. The question is, will our offering be a pleasing aroma or a stench before God?
This particular offering is a life well-lived for Christ and a source of light and influence for the unbelieving world around us. Just like an aroma has a strong pull, like the force of a planet’s orbit, our manner of living should draw in those around us. They should be captivated by the joy, hope, and light that exudes out of our person. They should be entranced by the the things we say and the way we say them. Every aspect of our lives should point back to one common denominator: that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of our lives.
This verse invites a moment of personal reflection. What is it that people “smell” when they are near me? Is it merely the typical odor of the world or is it the captivating aroma of Christ? The things that I’m giving my time and energy to, these offerings of my life, will Christ be pleased by what I bring?
May the offerings we bring be a pleasing aroma to our Lord and a warm, inviting scent to those around us.