“But 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. For we are the aroma of Christ to God 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 2:14-16
My sixth-grade teacher built a darkroom within our classroom. Our class was responsible for creating the John Adams Elementary yearbook each spring. Our teacher taught the class the fundamentals of photography and film processing. Students who demonstrated responsibility were given the opportunity to develop film after their work was completed. I loved going into the darkroom with its eerie red light and the photographs hanging by clothespins. The darkroom had a unique odor. More powerful than the smell of chemicals was the inescapable aroma of our teacher’s tobacco pipe.
Looking back on this now, I am in shock that all of this was allowed.
At the time, I remember associating the smell of the darkroom with my teacher. I liked my teacher and to this day the smell of a pipe reminds me of him.
When I was in sixth grade, my Dad was a smoker. He did not smoke much, and it was never in the house. When he would come in from the garage, I could smell the cigarette smoke on him. My mother chided him often that he needed to quit. She talked about the dangerous health implications and the stink it brought into the house. I loved my dad, and I did not want him to get sick from the cigarettes. I aligned with my mother and condemned his Marlboros as smelly.
It wasn’t often that I saw either man smoke, but I could routinely smell the remnants of their habit on each of them. This simple association reminds me of the verse from 2 Corinthians.
In chapter two of this letter to the early church, Paul teaches that associating with Christ, following Christ, keeping company with Christ will change how we interact with the world. People do not need to see us praying in a restaurant or reading the Bible at a coffee shop to know that we are of Christ. Being with Christ will bring about a noticeable change in us that others will be able to sense. Yet Paul is not talking in generalities, he has a specific action in mind.
Right before the verses shared above, Paul encourages the Corinthians to forgive. They had been forgiven by Christ and if they are to follow Christ then they will need to practice forgiveness. A spirit of forgiveness and a spirit of resentment are easy to spot (perhaps even easy to smell?). Friends, may the grace, peace, and love of God be about us, and as such may we bring a breath of fresh air into every place we enter.