A Pleasing Aroma

What’s that smell? Cookies baking in the oven? Popcorn popping in the microwave? Burgers on the grill? Those aromas can create a hunger in me even if it isn’t mealtime! But while these scents can make my mouth water, there are other food-smells that have the opposite effect. I’m not a fan of collards. They give off a distinctive, strong odor while cooking. It is such a strong smell that I’ve heard some people cook them outside so that the odor will not permeate the whole house. I wouldn’t want my house to smell like collards, but you may love the way collards smell. The way we evaluate scents depends on our own preferences – it is very subjective.

Like foods emit aromas to us, if we are Christians, “we are the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Because Christ is in us, we smell like Christ to God. I’m sure that’s a pleasing smell to Him. After all, Jesus pleased God in every way. Our “aroma” is described as the “fragrance of the knowledge of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14), which God spreads through us “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16a).

How does the Lord spread this fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus through us?

One way is through our words, our testimonies. To spread the “fragrance of this knowledge” to others, we tell them what God is teaching us from His Word, and we share the life lessons we are learning as He is working in the various situations we face.

For example, in the depths of grief, we have the sweet fragrance of the peace that passes understanding. During the agony of a terminal illness, we have the aroma of the hope of a future with Jesus in Heaven. While living in the uncertainty that comes with unemployment, we have the delightful scent of faith in the Lord who provides for us.

Over the past year, we’ve had some hard situations: two deaths in our family, two cars needed expensive repairs in the same week, a pipe leaked in our house causing significant damage, and most recently, my husband lost his job. Through these tests and trials, we have had some hard days emotionally, days when it felt like our hearts were broken and just when we began to heal, something else hit us and ripped open the wound. In our financial challenges, we have boldly stated that our faith is not in our savings account, but in the Lord Himself. We know that everything we have comes from Him and belongs to Him. In our grief and pain, we have openly shared with others about how God gives us peace. He is our Hope and our Sustainer. Perhaps, through our brokenness, others have “smelled” His fragrance (faith, peace, and hope).

If we are indeed the aroma of Christ to God and through us He is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, what is the impact?

How do others receive this fragrance? Just like food-smells are aromatic or repulsive, based on the preferences of each individual, the “fragrance of the knowledge of Christ” in us will be pleasing to some and offensive to others.

When believers hear testimonies of God’s provision and comfort, it should be a refreshing reminder of the promises we have as His children. The Bible refers to this effect as the “fragrance from life to life.” But for those who don’t know Jesus, praising God for the hard things in life may seem like foolishness. It may even bring conviction, causing them to realize that they don’t have a relationship with God. If they continue to reject Him, then the aroma of Christ will become the “fragrance of death to death” to them – a somber realization that apart from Him all of us are dead in our sins, and one day we will face judgment and eternal death if we don’t turn from our sins and come to Jesus.

Regardless of how others respond to us and our testimonies, our duty is to be the aroma of Christ. Like the sizzling burgers on the neighbors’ grill that led me to go and buy a chargrilled burger, our very presence in the world should make others want what we’ve got: Jesus.

“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.”
2 Corinthians 2:14