There is nothing like slowly walking past a Magnolia tree and breathing in a whiff of that natural perfume, which exudes from its blooms. Perfume companies have tried to capture it in countless bottles. We all want to smell something good which also makes us feel good. Living in a house full of women, they are swift to let me know if I need a shower after working in the yard.
In our divided world today, a lot of folks quickly turn their noses up to people that give them the wrong impression whether it is the color of their skin, their nationality or their religious beliefs.
One of the needed critics of Christians, who also happens to be one, is author Philip Yancey. His observations are researched and warranted in his award winning books. In Vanishing Grace he writes: “My assignments as a journalist take me to places where Christians give off a perfumed aroma and also to places where Christians offend the nostrils.”
Even though we will never be perfect this side of heaven, we should not entertain the question “Why Bother?” We should still be concerned with the manner in which Christianity is conveyed, since God has chosen us (warts, and all) to represent it.
Yancy continues: “Thomas Merton wrote in his journal, “In fact, spiritual dryness is one of the most acute experiences of longing we can have.” I look inward at my own spiritual thirst, and think also of people I know. What are the symptoms? A restless search for pleasure, fear of death, boredom, addiction-any of these can betray a longing that is at root spiritual, the cries and whispers of someone who has lost the way. How differently will I relate to the uncommitted if I view them not as evil or unsaved but rather as lost.”
Just like the time it takes to breathe in a magnolia bloom, we should not run past folks who believe differently than we do. Our aroma of Christ should infiltrate their lives by simply listening, which I need to work on.
Yancey persists, “There is a time to critique the surrounding culture and a time to listen, in the process perhaps awakening a latent thirst. I went looking for spirit and found alcohol; I went looking for soul, and I bought some style; I wanted to meet God, but they sold me religion,” the rock star Bono sometimes shouts at concerts. In Yahweh, a song I heard him perform in a packed arena, he offered God his hands, which clinch into fists, his mouth “so quick to criticize,” and finally his heart: “Take this heart, and make it break.”
What aroma does your faith give off to the world you live in? Is it legalism? Is it a hell-bound fear? 2 Corinthians 2:15 reads, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” (NLT)
pictures courtesy of “Nelson & His Nikon” including U2 concert at the Papa John Cardinal Stadium in June of 2017 in Louisville, Ky.