There are many people who don’t like garlic because of one notorious attribute: the smell. People notice when you have been eating garlic, or at least a lot of it. The aroma seems to pour out of every pore in your skin. There is no controlling it; you simply give off this smell wherever you go following such a meal. It seems that the impact of the gospel in our lives is like eating garlic. If the gospel is alive in us, we should smell like love to our neighbours; we should be able to pass a ‘smell test.’
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 writes, ‘But thanks be to God, who … manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.’ The gospel, in Paul’s word, has a distinct aroma.
It is easy to read the Bible as a collection of God’s activities throughout history, but the Bible is a narrative birthed out of dynamic relationships. The aroma of the gospel is mediated through these relationships as people do life together. Attitudes, character qualities and even service are experienced in daily interactions, in faith communities including churches. Similarly, today, our ministries are not simply the sum of their activities; they are the relationships that we start, join or build because of those activities. Activities open up opportunities for Kingdom-scented relationships.
Jesus once summarised his ministry by saying, ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends.’ He concluded, ‘Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down His life for his friend.’ I have never seen ‘lay down your life for your friend’ as an assigned ministry activity; rather, it is the natural outcome of a deep, loving relationship…
How can we ensure that our relationships convey the fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing? What kind of aroma are we giving in the contexts in which we work?
We all need to learn to ask others how we smell. When we eat garlic, it’s others who detect it. A family who has eaten garlic does not smell it on each other, but a visitor at the door may notice the odour immediately!
May it be that others recognise the aroma of Christ in us. And if we find we smell bad, may God grant us the grace to acknowledge that, to repent and seek forgiveness as Christ washes us with water and the Word.
–From an editorial by Joshua Bogunjoko