If you watch television more than five minutes a day, it’s doubtful you have missed seeing the advertisement by Johnny Bench, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame catcher, as he tells you about Blue Emu. It’s supposed to take away all the pains and aches of your arms and legs and wherever else you’ve got them. The bottom line slogan for the commercial is, as Bench says, “And you won’t stink!” Of course, what he’s doing is advertising the fact that it’s effective and it’s not like those other kinds of medications and drugs, so it will help you and you won’t stink when you put it on.
It is interesting to think not about just that medication but all the smells of life. The Bible talks about us, the believers, those who know Christ, as having a good scent, a good savor. In other words, we won’t stink. In the Old Testament when God is instructing His people about the sacrifices that are to be offered to Him in chapter one of the book of Leviticus, He tells about those sacrifices. In verse nine, He says it will be a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. In verse 13, He says it will be a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Then again in verse 17, there is the same description. In other words, when we come before God we are to bring offerings that become pleasant smells, good fragrances, before God.
In the New Testament, Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians has something that brings the same truth to it. It says we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15). To God, our family of faith, and even to a lost world, we are to have a good aroma. Of course the aroma is our spiritual life centered in Christ, and it has an expression like it is an aroma wafting from us and touching others. Paul writes in Ephesians about Jesus when he says, “And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). We are to live, walk, and act in such a way that there will be a pleasant aroma given off by us.
So in fact, we all have a savor, an aroma — good, bad. It is a spiritual thing. It is a fragrance, a perfume, a savor that in a sense you and I as individuals or as churches, have as a spiritual savor. It may be helpful for us to stop and think about what kind of aroma we give off when we get around others or even close to them. What does your church smell like? What are some of the bad smells that we give off, of which the world must surely take notice? Let me just suggest two or three things that, like aromas, are unseen but surely we’re aware of them.
One is bad attitudes. It is amazing how we sense — maybe even smell — sour, rotten attitudes. I am convinced that sometimes people want you to know that they’ve got a bad attitude. Other times they think they’re concealing it but they’re not. Recently I walked into a fast food restaurant to get a bite to eat and the person who was waiting on me reluctantly had to take my order. I smiled, tried to be gracious, but there was no response to that at all. She took my drink order and as I waited, she didn’t follow through with the order. Finally, another person working in the restaurant said to that employee, “You need to get his Diet Coke.” She reluctantly did it, and the person who was not waiting on me said, “She’s got a problem.” I just smiled and said, “I understand.” When I walked in the door it appeared to me that person was exhibiting a bad attitude and a rotten spirit, but I didn’t know then so I wasn’t going to over-evaluate. I just wanted to try to be pleasant and help through the day but no, it was clear after a few minutes that this person wanted me to know and everybody with whom she worked and everybody who came in contact with her that she had a sour attitude.
Have you ever seen someone like that, maybe in your family or maybe at your work or maybe at your church? Sad, that they don’t realize what a terrible aroma they are giving off. I think that God wants us not just to smile and grin through life, which might a good thing, but to have a spirit that is attuned to Him and alive with His presence to the point that while we may not smell real good, we won’t stink at least.
Another thing that will create a bad smell is dour demeanors. A person who is dour is brooding, having an ill humor, and even a harsh, uninvolving appearance. A person who is affected in life like that does not need to be the weekly greeter at the main entrance way of your church. Some time ago, I met a man and as we were talking with each other, something was said by some other people around us that was just a belly buster kind of laugh occasion. This man never cracked a smile. Everybody around was laughing about it, but he just stood there and I said, “That was funny, wasn’t it?” “Not really,” he said. It wasn’t anything hurtful or harmful to anybody that I knew of, but then this man went on to explain to me that he had trained himself never to laugh or to smile at anything. To be honest with you, he was really good at it. I had never and have still never seen him smile or laugh about anything. He has trained himself never to be engaged with anything but to stay dour about everything. I’ve never asked and it’s not my place to, but I wonder how his family deals with that. I wonder how people he works with deal with that. I wonder how, in times of great joy and celebration, the Lord even deals with that. We are encouraged by the Lord to put on our best face and our best disposition so that the world might see the wonder of the God that we know is at work in us to bring blessings even in the midst of difficulties in life. A dour demeanor has a distinct odor and it is not good.
One final thing that smells and probably gives off the worst odor from our churches is devour power. Let me explain what I mean by that by looking at Galatians 5. In that chapter in verse 14, Paul says that thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself and then in verse 15 seems to be addressing a situation that was going on in the church and it’s too often seen in the church these days: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” What an insightful statement and what a truth for us to remember these days. If you destroy one another with no thought for what it projects to the world, what it says of our King and our Lord, what it says about your attitude toward other Christians, if you just go on and hurt and bite and devour one another, that devour power gives off a terrible odor to your community, your friends, and even to the Lord. Isn’t it sad that it’s often Christians vs. Christians, and we become our own worst enemies? The good news from Scripture and from, I guess you could say, Johnny Bench is that you can put on the love of Christ and love your neighbor as yourself and live in the relationship with God that touches peoples’ lives with hope and peace and goodness and grace and you won’t stink. May God bless you that people see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven, but even as they see and hear that they might sniff and say, “Man, those folks give off a great aroma!” It’s the aroma of the good things of God.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.