I’m a regular volunteer for a local dog rescue here in Phoenix. My primary duties consist of serving as a transporter, a handler, and an occasional dog whisperer. Nearly every Saturday morning, I show up at our boarding facility, never knowing quite what to expect from one week to the next. Usually I just retrieve the dogs assigned to me for transporting to the adoption event we hold at a PetSmart in Scottsdale (I’ve had as many as 11 dogs in my Kia Soul – a virtual canine clown car). Other days, I am called upon to give one or more dogs a quick bath before we head out for the day. More often than not, I am not as fresh and clean by the time I arrive at the event as I was when I left home an hour earlier.
Throughout the day, I pick up dogs and hand them to prospective adopters. I clean up pee and poop. Lots of pee and poop. I walk the larger dogs who need a break from being in their kennels. I hold dogs who need to be socialized. I work with “fear” dogs (that’s where the whisperer part comes in). Sometimes I just carry around a cute little puppy because I can. Did I mention that I clean up lots of pee and poop?
When the event is over, we pack up the dogs that didn’t get adopted and transport them back to the boarding facility. Then, while other volunteers clean out the kennels, I walk all of the dogs who stayed behind during the day, so they too can get some exercise and fresh air (and do their business). Often I am asked to do handyman types of tasks while I’m there. Without getting into too much detail, let it suffice that, being around so many dogs excited at the prospect of getting out of their kennels and going for a walk, sometimes I get “accessorized”.
By the time I finally get home late that night, I have spent between 10 and 12 hours with up to 40 dogs and everything that comes with them. My two dogs practically maul me when I walk in the door, trying to sniff every inch of me in their investigation of all those aromas. Needless to say, I stink at the end of the day.
I was pondering this experience, and this passage came to mind.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 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. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful 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?
(2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NLT)
On a good day, I can smell pretty darn good. On a day like my typical Saturday, not so much. If it’s that easy to pick up the odors of the world around us, is maintaining a pleasant spiritual aroma any easier? As Christians, we are called to influence the world around us. Paul says that we are to bear the fragrance of Christ, like a sweet perfume. So what kind of a fragrance are we spreading to those around us? Are we a sweet perfume or a dreadful stench?
Sadly, some Christians today are determined to spread the stench of their narrow rigid doctrine. This noxious odor repels those who are looking for a relationship with their Creator. Rather than finding a people who are the embodiment of love, grace and healing, they encounter judgmental attitudes, fear-mongering and hypocrisy.
On the other hand, some Christians exude the sweet fragrance of Jesus wherever they go. They try to see the best in others, exemplify compassion and forgiveness, and model the gentle character of Christ.
Have you ever hugged someone wearing perfume or cologne and came away smelling like that person? God wants us to carry the fragrance of Christ like that. But we can only do this by spending time with Him. When we spend time with Christ, we take on His characteristics and attributes; we do the things Jesus did and talk like Jesus. We show love, mercy and compassion to those around us. We speak words of encouragement and hope.
Jesus didn’t waste time forcing rigid theology on His followers. In fact, He criticized the religious leaders of doing this. Jesus always put people first. He made it very clear that rules were put in place to serve us, not the other way around. He taught us how to love our neighbors, how to put people before traditions and rules and doctrine. He told us that we would be known by our love, not our doctrine.
People are being driven away from the Gospel by those so-called Christians who carry the stench of death. The message of God’s wrath, embedded in hateful, condemning language, will never draw people to the cross. God doesn’t want followers who merely see salvation as a fire insurance policy. He wants people who will follow Him because they love Him and enjoy having His presence in their lives.
Let us be the sweet aroma of life that draws people into a loving relationship with the Lord. Don’t be a stinky Christian!
Have a blessed week!
photo credit: Shannon Dizmang – flickr, cc
DAVID COOPER is an ordained minister of the Word of God, in between pastoral assignments. He has been actively involved in various aspects of ministry, including pastoral leadership, since 1984. He considers himself a fun-loving kid at heart, a hard worker (when motivated), creative, and a jack of all trades, but a bit of a practical joker. He is a life-long student of the Bible, and loves to share the insights of his journey with anyone who will listen. He’s also a group coordinator with the Gay Christian Network. He is active on Facebook, and blogs at Sunday Dinner with Pastor David. David lives in Phoenix, Arizona.