2 Corinthians 2
My brother (cool uncle that he is) gifted my daughter with a unique board game called P.U! -The Guessing Game of Smells. Players try to guess what smell is radiating off of each scratch and sniff card. Some are deliciously delightful and you don’t want to put the card down – like freshly baked cookies or peppermint. And others – such as skunk, burnt rubber and doggy doo-doo – leave quite a lasting impression in the opposite direction.
Smells are powerful and memorable – and perhaps that is why Paul uses this powerful analogy in 2 Corinthians 14-16 (NIV).
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.
Picture the streets in ancient Corinth (a busy seaport in current Greece) lined with the crowds which came out to see the Roman Emperor (God) and his general (Christ) leading their captives (those belonging to God and following Christ). The Roman Emperor and general are powerful, awe-inspiring and triumphant. The obedient, orderly, well-kept captives are clear witnesses to the superiority, majesty, might, and care of the emperor and general. They indeed spread the knowledge of the triumph of Christ.
It is interesting to note that many versions remove the “captive” phrasing which might be seen today as a negative connotation for Christ’s followers. The NASB for example says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ”. In that day and age, the military image would have been very well understood. But perhaps today we could imagine the owner (God) of the triumphant Super Bowl Championship football team at the head of the parade leading the football team (those who belong to God) who are testifying everywhere to the ‘sweetness’ of their football coach (Christ).
Either way – God is pleased at the witness and sweet smell of those who belong to Him. He loves to see them show homage to their Christ/general/coach/His Son. Others see this as well – and respond – one way or another. Those who belong to God and are trophies of Christ’s victory are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ EVERYWHERE – both to “those who are being saved and those who are perishing”. Our victory parade route should not stay within our church parking lot. We need to let that sweet aroma waft through the entire city and countryside. Even knowing that when some people smell it – they will smell death. The losing football team (Satan’s) still has some very vocal, die-hard fans. Sometimes when those who are perishing smell death they can react in very hostile ways. We can, and must, still expect this today. But don’t let it cancel your parade. Carry on with the sweet smell of Christ – it brings life to those who will let it in.
This is so much more than a scratch and sniff board game. More than a football play-off. This is for life – or death. Carry the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere you go.