A Pleasing Aroma

Happy Thanksgiving!

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain aromas with specific times of the year? Pumpkin spice signals a season of thankfulness; cinnamon, pine, and peppermint usher in the season of giving.

pleasing aroma

Some smells are so lovely and inviting we automatically inhale deeply as soon as we detect them. (Yes, Starbucks, I’m talking to you!) Others are, shall we say…disgusting! Within nanoseconds of detection, windows go up, recycled air is blasted, hands cover nose, and we scream, “Skunk!”

Smells are powerful triggers, aren’t they? They can cause a visceral reaction instantaneously which makes it extremely important that we be aware of our own aromatic contribution to our surroundings.

Therefore, it is with much compassion as your sister in the Lord that I must tell you—and I mean this in the nicest of ways: You smell!

It’s true.

You have a distinct spiritual scent that follows you wherever you go. Don’t believe me? It’s true. The apostle Paul explained this concept to the church in Corinth:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 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 an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16a)

In other words, to God, his children smell pretty amazing. To those being saved, we are an aroma that brings life. To those who are perishing, we reek of death.

As Paul continued, “Who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:16b)

It’s a profound truth and responsibility that I never considered before. Some will love our “scent” while others will hate it. And most importantly, their reaction has little to do with me, and everything to do with Christ in me.

Our spirits have a sense of smell. Who knew?!

When you carefully consider this concept, it makes sense. Haven’t there been times when you just met someone or passed a person in the store and you somehow knew they shared your faith?

What about the time you engaged the Starbucks barista in conversation, and you instinctively knew he was a Christ follower? Or the time you explained your engine noises to the mechanic while simultaneously realizing she was a fellow Believer?

I’ve always assumed it was “something in my spirit” that recognized the connection, but I never considered what it was. Now, I know: My spirit has a sense of smell.

I’m not going off the deep end here—I promise. I’m simply using Paul’s analogy to help us think in spiritual terms about something we’ve all experienced: S.O.

You can think of spirit odor (S.O.) like body odor (B.O.)—it’s not as obvious to us as it is to those around us. And the aroma of our spirit depends a lot on where we’ve spent our time.

Let that sink in for a moment: We carry the smell of our environment with us wherever we go—physically and spiritually.

As a little girl, when I spent time with my chain-smoking Nana and Papa, you would know it as soon as I walked into the room, because I smelled like I’d been with them.

Recently, our teenage son was tending our friends’ chickens while they were out of town. After spending quality time in the coop to refill their food and water, surrounded by the little cluckers, he smelled just like them…all the way home!

Similarly, when we spend time in the presence of the Lord, we begin to “smell” like Him, too. It’s not a physical smell, but a spiritual aroma. We smell different than we did before, and it’s pretty distinct.

I guess you could say that we smell out of this world!

Detectable only in the spiritual realm, our aroma identifies us as having been with Christ.

As Alvin L. Reid says in his new book Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}, “As we live daily, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in front of others, we become the aroma of Christ to those we encounter.”

Now, here’s what’s interesting: According to Paul, the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This was hard for me to wrap my brain around until I thought of our traditional main meal on Thanksgiving Day. Depending on your turkey tradition and what time zone you live in, it’s very possible that you’ll start smelling the turkey at some point during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of turkey on Thanksgiving Day is there? Unless, of course, you are a Vegetarian or Vegan. I’m guessing that if you’re one of the aforementioned noncarnivores, the aroma of turkey is probably more like a stench and you’d rather not smell it. Am I right? And what if it permeates your clothes and you go home smelling like Thanksgiving dinner. For some, this is perfectly welcome, and for others, the coats immediately hang outside to air out.

So, back to Paul’s statement: the exact same aroma that smells like LIFE to some will reek of DEATH to others.

This could be difficult—especially when you’re surrounded by those you love who do not share your faith. And it’s exacerbated during the holiday season.

Have you experienced high levels of stress or predictable conflict with someone for no tangible reason? Like every time you’re together something comes up and boom! Stress. Anger. Resentment. Conflict.

What if their reaction to you has nothing to do with you personally?

What if they are reacting to the pleasing aroma of Christ in you—only it’s not so pleasing to them. In fact, in their experience, you stink…not physically, but something in their spirit can’t handle your smell.

And… This is the reason you are reading this devotional today… Right now…

What would happen if, instead of taking the behavior and/or comments personally, you recognize the reaction for what it is. Choose not to be offended. Pray for their eyes to be opened to the truth. And turn to God who loves your spiritual scent.

During this holiday season, it’s critical that we remember two important truths:

  1. We cannot control whether or not others like our spiritual aroma, BUT…
  2. We can control what—and who—we smell like.

Remember: When you walk closely with the Lord, you will be “the pleasing aroma of Christ” both to Him and those who love to spend time with Him.

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Laura Zielke
Laura Zielke is a deep thinker and Bible scholar. She is not afraid to question tradition and challenges people to evaluate their beliefs according to the Scriptures. Laura earned her M-Div. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on Biblical Studies, Archaeology, and Languages.

She has been blessed to serve as a lay leader in local churches for more than thirty years. Having been recognized as an outstanding leader, teacher, and entrepreneur, Laura serves as the Community Manager for the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (an online resource dedicated to helping nonprofit leaders worldwide take their organizations from messy to thriving), and she is on the board of directors at Shield Your Faith (an apologetics ministry).

Laura and her husband of 21 years have one son who is in the 10th grade and homeschooled.

Laura is an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, and enjoys helping people discover more about themselves, the Lord, and their purpose in life.

For more information and pictures of cute penguins 🐧, visit LauraZielke.com.
Posted on: November 23, 2017, by : Laura Zielke

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