2 Corinthians 2:14-16 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. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?
This passage holds new meaning for me as I read it today. A few months ago, I heard a sermon that gave me new insight into what this verse is really talking about, with the back story of what a triumphal procession looked like when these verses were written.
See, every person Paul wrote this letter to would have seen processions by Roman soldiers as they came back from war. These processions were cause for great celebration in the streets, the priests would walk, carrying burning incense that would fill the streets with heavy perfume. There would be flower petals thrown on the triumphant soldiers as they passed displaying the spoils of war. As the chariots and sandaled feet crushed the petals, they would add to the pungent aroma in the air. The smell would overwhelm everyone in the area, it would have been familiar, pleasing and instantly recognizable for the joyous occasion it heralded.
But there was another group of people for whom the same smell was like the rotting of death. Decaying their nostrils with every step. The prisoners. The captives. Those at the back of the processional being led into their new lives as slaves. The scent of incense and flowers reinforced the total destruction of lives once known and loss of home, family and freedom. It was putrid. Horrifying.
These verses challenge me as a Christian to spread the aroma of the Lord wherever I am. That the incense of God would follow me and be impossible to escape. I am His perfume. A scent that is delightful to Him. But, I need to realize that it will not be pleasing to everyone. There are those who will recognize the scent as pleasing and familiar. A source of joy and contentment. But, there are others who will loathe it. For some, the Lord’s fragrance will be a reminder of the hole in their own lives. A whiff of what they are missing. And others just flat-out hate anything to do with God, and that includes me. Regardless, I need to continue to let the Lord’s perfume waft into every area of my life. Permeating everywhere I am. No matter who tells me that I stink.