I find myself in more circular conversations these days than I’d like to admit. I’m still waiting for even one exchange that spirals up and not down. Just yesterday one such conversation ended with a person calling me names and then adding with physically animated angry flourish, “You literally stink! I can’t stand it!”
To be clear, I have no hope that everyone will like me. In fact, I know that most people don’t and likely won’t. I stopped worrying about it long ago when I realized one crucial truth: I stink.
There is no doubt that human pheromones are powerful. The scent or smell of another person can actually affect the behavior of others. Some may be drawn in but others may be repulsed and repelled.
Consider for a moment what makes you salivate when you catch a whiff of it …
Now consider what makes you gag when it wafts your way.
What is a fragrant aroma to the one is the very smell of death to another. But that is no surprise to those who have read II Corinthians 2:14-16a. I like the J.B. Phillips translation:
14-16a Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on His own triumphant way and makes our knowledge of Him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume! We Christians have the unmistakeable “scent” of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the very smell of doom, to the former it has the fresh fragrance of life itself.
So, the accusation of stinking is unavoidable for the Christian. If you are in Christ and Christ is in you; if you are indeed a temple of the Holy Spirit and God is making His appeal to the world through you, then — face it — you stink.
It’s time evangelical Christians wake up to the reality that to be like Jesus is to be rejected by the world. For the most part, people hated Jesus. Herod had dozens of young boys slaughtered trying to rid the world of the infant Christ. The people in His home town of Nazareth tried to stone Him after He preached in their synagogue. One of His best friends sold Him out for a handful of silver. And the crowds who on one day hailed Him as “Hosanna,” four or five days later called for Jesus to be crucified. Most people thought that Jesus stank. He didn’t give them what they wanted: liberation from Roman occupation, tyranny and suffering. What He gave was Light and Life and Salvation, but people loved darkness and hated Jesus.
For too long we have hoped that we could have it both ways: With Jesus on the one hand and yet popular with the world and its ways. But the only way that’s ever going to be true is when the world is aligned with God’s will, which is not the world we now inhabit.
G.K. Chesterton put it poetically in “The Song of the Quoodle,”
They haven’t got no noses,
The fallen sons of Eve;
Even the smell of roses
Is not what they supposes;
But more than mind discloses
And more than men believe.
In case you need a decoder ring for that: People are not going to find you fragrant because since the Fall, they think God stinks.
Embrace it Christian, you stink.