You Are a Fragrance to the World
We often talk of being a fragrance to the Lord, but did you know that Christians are also a fragrance to the world? This is exactly what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 2:14.
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.
Paul is telling us something that we should pay attention to here. There are several ways in which we are (and he of course included himself in this truth), a fragrance to the world. First, as captors of and to God in Christ, we are literally being marched through the world on display. As Christians, we stand out simply because we belong to God in a world governed largely by Satan. Because of that, we should be sure we stand out for the right reasons.
There is a “campaign” underway against Starbucks by people who claim to be Christian. I’m not questioning their salvation, but simply noting that this campaign was started by people who self-identify as Christian. Because of their worldview, they are upset with Starbucks because the mugs they sell this time of year are solid red and completely devoid of any religious or holiday symbolism. No snowflakes, no reindeer, no Santa, and certainly no Nativity.
These Christians want the rest of us Christians to buy coffee there and when they ask for our name to write on our cups, tell them it’s “Merry Christmas.” This will force Starbucks to recognize the season of the year.
I couldn’t disagree more with this asinine concept. Starbucks is not a Christian company. They are a secular business. There are other, more important reasons to boycott Starbucks if a Christian wants to do that, which I won’t go into here.
Let me also clearly state that snowflakes, reindeer, and Santa really have nothing to do with why Christians should celebrate Christmas at all. I realize that some of my readers do not even celebrate Christmas because they consider it to be a modern, ritualized form of an old, pagan rite. That’s fine. But for those Christians who do celebrate it, why it should matter which cups Starbucks produces and sells is beyond me. If truth be told, Christ was not born on December 25th. He was likely born sometime during the Spring.
My point is this: what kind of “fragrance” do you think those Christians who want to give Starbucks a hard time are leaving, wafting around in public, over their new campaign to accuse Starbucks of its alleged war on Christianity? It’s probably a stench, not a sweet or nice fragrance that is any way pleasing to anyone, including the Lord. I actually found myself apologizing to an atheist friend of mine for this Starbucks campaign. This kind of activity by Christians is ridiculous. Meanwhile, actual Christians are being slaughtered in various parts of the world, the lost continue to die every day, and crime, starvation, and the like claims its victims daily. Yet, the biggest concern of some Christians in America is anger over Starbucks’ choice of design (or lack thereof) for the mugs it sells during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. That is patently absurd. I think some Christians need to get out more. Maybe spend some time working with the homeless, in a soup kitchen, or a woman’s shelter. Go on a short-term missionary project to a third world country!
Another way Christians give off a fragrance to the world is through their commitment to love others as God love us. We love people because He loves us. This doesn’t mean uniting with the world’s purposes because we know who controls this world (with God’s permission). It does mean that we produce a sweet aroma through our works and also through our speech. That includes sharing the gospel, which is effectively accomplished in both word and deed. By the way, true love for others comes from within as it not something you can simply put on and make a go of it. The world easily sees through that.
If Jesus boycotted anything, it seems clear enough that He boycotted the Pharisees and other religious leaders and He also boycotted some of the Temple practices. He often denounced the religious leaders for their heavy-handed legalism. He even resorted to labeling them what they were as He saw them. I’m not advocating that Christians should do this because Jesus was actually revealing their inner nature to the crowds, something that we do not necessarily have the capacity to do. It was okay for Jesus to call them “white-washed sepulchers” or something else because He saw their hearts and their intentions. We have no ability to do that and should shy away from it though arguably, the temptation is strong at times to resort to that.
Do you know that Paul is also telling us that the preaching of the gospel (in word or deed) serves as a fragrance to the world and to God. God always loves to see His people involved in actionable spreading of the gospel. It always pleasing Him and that is regardless of the world’s response to it. Considering the context of the passage quoted above, Paul was overjoyed at the response of the Corinthian believers (from his first letter) after hearing that they had taken his advice to heart and done what needed to be done. He was overjoyed, not only that the believers had accepted Paul’s teaching, but that they had done so in the authority with which he wrote; as an apostle.
Whether we realize it or not, we are a fragrance to God and the world. We are always giving off a spiritual odor. Imagine that.
What is your fragrance? Is it something that pleases God (regardless of whether or not it pleases the world) or is it something that angers or displeases God?
There is a great chance that even if/when our fragrance is pleasing to God, it will not be so to the world, though God can still use it for His glory. Eventually, those in the world who “smell” our fragrance may come around to its sweetness and at some point, come to Him in faith. This will not only ultimately provide them with salvation, but will bring God tremendous glory.
I’m reminded of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7-8). Yes, Stephen became upset with the legalistic religious leaders as we can clearly note in his speech to them and probably raised his voice. But please remember his demeanor as he died. The last verse of Acts 7 tells us of Stephen’s love for those who persecuted him to death.
Lord, do not hold this sin against them!
Do you think that these words, prompted by a heart of love for those who were killing him was a sweet fragrance to them and God? Certainly, without doubt, it was a sweet aroma to God. But it also became a sweet aroma to at least one person too that we know of. That person became the apostle Paul, the very person who wrote to the Corinthians rejoicing that they had heard and received his mandates.
As Paul wrote these words about what it meant to be a sweet aroma to the world and to God, the death of Stephen may have been with him. Paul understood exactly how the fragrance of a Christian worked in a godless world. That fragrance had softened Paul’s heart so that when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, Paul had been sufficiently softened and broken enough to hear and receive the truth.
I’m willing to bet that even as Paul set off for Damascus where he chased down Christian after Christian (these were Jews who had converted, not Gentile Christians) in anger (Acts 8:3), God was busy using Paul’s recollections of Stephen’s death and the forgiveness he had evidenced for his murderers to thoroughly soften Paul’s heart. It worked. Though he may have begun his trek under a form of righteous anger immediately after the death of Stephen, God would not let Paul off the hook, so He continued to bring that scene to his mind repeatedly. I imagine Paul’s recollection of that event and his trying to convince himself that Stephen “deserved” it, was part of what gave Paul his anger toward Jewish Christians. But God used that for other purposes and God won the day.
So here it is, years later and Paul rejoiced that the Corinthians obeyed his instructions. Paul knew that they would become a sweet aroma to God and the world, whether the world ever appreciated it in this life or not.
Folks, we are God’s captives. We are His prisoners, having been bought with a price. We can do our own thing or we can willingly submit to God. The former creates a stench to God and the world. The latter creates a sweet aroma to God and the world will one day recognize it as well. Hopefully, it will happen before they leave this life. Amen?
Choose your battles wisely. Remember, in everything you do and everything you say, you give off a fragrance to God and the world. Make it a sweet one.
Entry filed under: israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: 2 corinthians 2:14, apostle paul, fragrance, stoning of stephen, sweet aroma.