Have you ever been around something, someone or been somewhere and later realised you began to smell like that environment? I remember being a rebellious teenager and my mum immediately knowing, despite my best efforts to disguise the smell, if I had been smoking or had been to the pub. It was as if she was part detective and part bloodhound! Very often my mates were left wondering if I had left the country for a few weeks as I suffered ‘being grounded’. But the fragrance I often carried made an impact on everything around me.
In Paul’s day, very often the streets were filled with a fragrance, an aroma of victory. As the Roman generals returned from successful campaigns, they would have frequently taken lengthy detours and marched their armies through cities to inspire celebration. As they proudly traveled though, the cities erupted with parties and the streets were filled with the smell of burning incense and the rose petals which were thrown from rooftops as the soldiers passed by. The atmosphere was filled with what the people came to unmistakably recognize as a fragrance of victory.
But if any soldier or unit disobeyed orders and decided on another path, they would have missed all the celebration and joy, and would not have carried that sweet fragrance on their journey.
Paul draws on that imagery in 2 Corinthians 2:14… “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.”
We are being led in a never-ending victorious procession because of the cross. The reality is that, as we faithfully follow Jesus, living in obedience and in His presence, we carry unmistakable, undeniable evidence of whose presence we live in. Yet, it is possible to choose another path for a season, missing out on so much of the celebration and joy of our salvation, and as a result not carry the sweet fragrance of Christ on our journey.
Therefore, Paul’s wording in v15 is such an important reminder: “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
I used to think that it was most important to carry this fragrance to others, but Paul is very clear. What really makes the difference is that our lives are a pleasing aroma to God first! When our vertical focus is correct, our horizontal impact will be powerful! Paul makes it very clear that the impact will vary among those who are being saved and those who are perishing, it will be life leading to life, or death leading to death, yet our responsibility is to carry the aroma of Jesus while praying that many of those we love will find grace and follow Jesus in all of life.
So, can I be bold enough to ask: What do you smell like at this moment in your life? Are you carrying the victorious aroma of Christ, or do you smell like the fallen disobedient world in which we currently exist?
The staggering reality is we have the awesome privilege and profound responsibility to carry Jesus to a fearful, lost and hurting 21st Century world, and as Paul reminds us in v16: “…who is adequate for such a task as this?”
Holy Spirit, empower me to walk worthy of my calling. Help me to consistently choose the narrow path at every turn and as I carry the sweet fragrance of Christ, may it be the aroma of life leading to life, among those in my sphere of influence for Your glory! Amen.