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Friday, 19 August 2016

A fragrance of life and death.

The market for perfume is a large one - at least in the so-called "western world".  What self-respecting woman would go anywhere without at least a dab of perfume behind her ears?!  There is also a large market for candles that, as they burn, provide a fragrance that can permeate a large room - and even, if appropriately positioned, a full house!  Add to those the various aerosols that 'freshen' your clothes, your curtains, your furniture, your pets - and, of course, not forgetting "the smallest room" - and it is easy to understand why fragrances are so all-pervasive (and I haven't even mentioned the various toiletries for both males and females!).

The apostle Paul made mention of fragrance, in one of his letters to the early disciples of Jesus in Corinth.  He wrote: "... thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph, 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." (II Cor 2:14-16).

So what was Paul saying with those words?  Well, he was using a metaphor drawn from a Roman triumphal march.  This was a parade that took place when a general returned after having won a major victory.  The high political officials would lead the procession, followed by trumpeters blowing their instruments.  Then would come waggons displaying some of the spoils taken from the conquered territory and, just behind them, soldiers and officers who had been captured alive.  They, of course, were in chains!  The priests, carrying burning censers from which a fragrance pervaded the air, were next in line.  Bringing up the rear would be a group of cheering military men of various ranks, delighted in the victory of their commander.

The smell of the incense symbolised joy, and triumph, and life, to the victorious general and his troops; but, to the wretched captives who knew that they were on the way to their own deaths, it savoured of nothing but that death.

A disciple of Jesus is, Paul is telling us, already in the victory parade.  Such a one is, him/herself, a fragrance that others will notice.  There should be something about the believer that is "fragrantly attractive" to others.   However, to any who do not, themselves, respond positively to that aroma; anyone who rejects (or even neglects!) the Gospel; it is "a fragrance from death to death" as they continue on their way to a lost eternity.  It is to those who do respond positively; who become children of God; that it is "a fragrance from life to life" as they have the assurance of a place prepared for them. (see John 14:2-3).

If you are a disciple of Jesus, please be aware of the tremendous responsibility that we have to make our lives as savoury as possible, by staying close to Him Who is constantly using us to influence the lives of others, for eternity.

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