2 Corinthians 2
12Well, when I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord gave me tremendous opportunities. 13But I couldn’t rest because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.
14But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume. 15Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. 16To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 17You see, we are not like those hucksters—and there are many of them—who preach just to make money. We preach God’s message with sincerity and with Christ’s authority. And we know that the God who sent us is watching us. (2 Corinthian 2:12-17, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
There’s a commercial that has been running lately on a local hit radio station I listen to.
A woman is upset that she can’t get a plumber to tell her over the phone how much they charge to unclog a drain.
Queue the sound of a harp, signifying the entrance of another person.
The woman says, “Wow, you smell good. Who are you?”
“I’m Mike Diamond, the smell-good plumber.” Diamond goes on to tell the potential customer that they will gladly come and unclog almost any drain for $99.
I’m aware of a stereotype about plumbers but it doesn’t involve how they smell. Nevertheless, the plumber in this radio spot is trying to set himself and his company apart from others in the industry by marketing themselves as plumbers who show up on time, are clean and smell good.
Paul, in this chapter of 2 Corinthians says that Christians have a smell. To some, our smell is fragrant but to others, our smell is rotten. What’s he talking about? What is going on in this passage?
Paul begins this section by comparing Christ’s conquest over death to a Roman triumphal procession. A Roman triumphal procession was a great honor that was only bestowed on generals who had accomplished great victories over a foreign enemy, usually resulting in the end of a conflict that involved great military spoils.
NOTE: For more information on the Roman triumphal process, check out this article on britannica.com.
The procession was essentially a parade that consisted of political leaders in the front, followed by musicians and then sacrificial animals. Then came the spoils of war (the prisoners), followed by the general, and lastly, the general’s soldiers.
Throughout the procession, the burning of incense to the gods created a ubiquitous aroma that filled the air with a fragrance that added to the aura of the occasion.
When the procession reached its conclusion at the Temple of Jupiter, the prisoners were usually slain while thank offerings were made to Jupiter and the political and military leaders feasted.
Thus, if you were a prisoner in that procession, the aroma, though pleasant to the nostrils, was literally the smell of death. For the rest of the procession, and those cheering in the crowds, the smell signified victory.
Paul says that we as his followers have been taken captive by Christ and we are now a part of his procession. We are commissioned by Jesus to share the gospel with others. Paul says that this act of service is like a sweet perfume, an offering of worship made to God himself.
This fragrance is perceived by our fellow humans in two different ways. For those who respond to the message, the smell is life-giving, but to those who reject the message, the smell is one of death and doom.
Notice that we don’t determine whether the smell is a life-giving fragrance or the smell of doom to others. That is determined solely by the response of the listener.
Though we can’t control how others perceived our smell, we can control whether we smell or not. We can choose to not smell at all by ignoring God’s command to share the message, or we can choose to smell by sharing the message with others without regard to how they will perceive it.
We have an awesome opportunity to invite others to be a part of Jesus’ triumphal procession. The reality is that everyone is already a part of the procession. For those who don’t know Jesus, they are the prisoners who are on their way to certain death. However, If they respond to the gospel message, they can be freed from impending doom and join us as captives in the back of the procession, becoming a part of God’s mighty, victorious army!
Paul says that when we share the good news with others, people will perceive it (smell it) in two different ways. But that presupposes that we are involved in sharing with others. What motivates you to “smell” (share the gospel) with others? What keeps you from smelling?
In your own experience, what was it about the message of Christ that made it “life-giving”?
In your opinion, what are some things we can do as Christians to make our “smell” more attractive to those we are trying to reach?
Photo by Lenka Sluneckova on Unsplash