THE AROMA IN MELBOURNE
Have you ever heard someone say, “Christianity stinks”? Guess what? I would also agree with that statement. Hey there … easy now! Don’t get defensive, and let me explain … For the Church, which is the body of Christ, has an aroma. We have a ‘scent’ about us, and before you get too insulted, we should look to the Bible to further explain this idea.
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and 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. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”
If we truly are Christians, we can’t help but smell. The scripture says that Jesus manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. If we know Him, we represent Him, to everyone, everywhere. Our physical presence in Melbourne should also be Jesus’ presence in Melbourne. To know Jesus is for His presence and truth to permeate our entire lives!
A SMELL THAT LINGERS
When I lived in New Jersey, they still had some establishments that allowed smoking, and after being in these places the smell of cigarettes would linger on you. Let’s say you went home from a restaurant that had allowed smoking, but when you entered the front door, you weren’t greeted with hugs and kisses, but instead you were immediately and understandably greeted with the comment, “you stink of smoke, go air out somewhere”. The sense of smell had identified that your presence had been with smokers. In a similar way, if you are a Christian, people should also know that you have been in the presence of Jesus Christ because of your aroma, which is you living and sharing your faith. They should identify you with your witness of Jesus by your words, thoughts and actions. Just you being around people will mean they sense Jesus in and through you.
STENCH OF DEATH
However, just like the smell of smoke repels some people, so does this fragrance of Christ! To those who are perishing (unbelievers), we speak and live the truth of Jesus and we are to them the smell of death. Our truth condemns them, and they may react negatively, and even slander our attempts to share Jesus and love them. They will call us evil for doing good, and they will call us bigots for truly loving them because we cared and shared truth with them. May we never give up on these people for we don’t know when, or if, God will choose to graciously give them true life in Jesus. The great news is that when we are insulted or rejected because of faith in Christ, Jesus says that we are blessed and great is our reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11).
COMMON GROUND ISN’T CANCELLED
In these days where our faith is tested and the presence of Jesus and His followers is becoming increasingly unwelcome at the public table, we must find strength and hope to keep showing up and being present (the fragrance of Jesus) at the private, local and neighbourly tables that are available to us. Even in a ‘Cancel Culture’ your aroma can’t be cancelled! Don’t lose sight of the middle ground conversations and the common ground friendships we can have in Melbourne.
THE LOCAL TABLE IS OPEN
The local table (cafes and in homes) is still very much open for Jesus followers, and it’s a much more hospitable table than the tables of high-profile boards, clubs or politics, where it’s all about policy, money, extreme opinions, polarisation and arguments. I’m not saying we shouldn’t seek to impact and influence in those high-profile settings, but as followers of Jesus let’s remember we aren’t trying to win arguments, but we are trying to love and win people for Jesus. Paul gives practical direction to Christians to:
rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them”. (Romans 12:12–14)
HOSPITALITY OR HOSTILITY
We should, without reservation, speak the truth, but I question the value of arguing in the extremes, for I have noticed that people don’t listen to each other in the extremes of argumentation. Often, meaningful exchanges and the consideration of ideas happen in a context of respect, trust, and through the establishing of middle and common ground through hospitality, rather than online outrage and hostility. It may well be more helpful and strategic for us as Christians to redirect energy and concern from losing our place at the table of public square (high profile) to focusing on earning the right to be heard at the local table (low profile). We need wisdom in our day to navigate through our challenging and costly environments, but it’s important that we do this well because some will find Jesus (through our faithfulness) in being the fragrance of Christ in their settings. The fact is they won’t smell the aroma of Jesus if you and I don’t show up!
Think about pleasing aromas … a wood oven baked pizza, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, or warm cookies with chocolate chips … hmmm … yum … cookies. Whatever the pleasing aroma is, it serves as something that encourages us to partake or experience it. Great joy is found through sharing our faith in word and deed, which results in someone trusting in Jesus as their Savior. God uses us in His sovereign plan as instruments to call people to Himself. Wow! He can use ‘little me’ to be a pleasing aroma that would cause someone to taste and see that the Lord is good!
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
So let us be led by Jesus in His victorious and triumphant march through Melbourne and beyond, so as to spread the aroma of Jesus everywhere we go, and let us deeply trust God with what kind of a scent we are to people we are around. Proceed in the sight of God and with sincerity and dependency on God, in His sufficiency and strength, and please continue to show up and speak up in your everyday victory march for Jesus, so that Melbourne will witness that you have been in His presence and know Him. Also, expect and plan for resistance and repelling responses from those people who find us to be the ‘stench of death’, but with joy and anticipation also expect to be the ‘aroma of life’ to others.
In His Tread,
Pastor Andrew Edmonds