Fragrance of Life
When I was a little girl, my mother had me read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell one summer. The story covers the family life of the O’Haras, their friends and other relationships before, during and following the American Civil War in the 1800’s. It was quite a journey but I became so entranced with the story that I re-read it 4-5 times through my teenage years. The story became an epic film starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
There are two parts of the story that impacted me early. One was found on the first page and is the first line of the book. It goes like this “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful but men seldom realized it when they were caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” I never thought of myself as ugly or unattractive but not drop-dead gorgeous either. This line from Gone with the Wind reminded me that it is not looks that attract people but who you are and how you treat them. A valuable lesson for a little girl.
The second line in the book that caught my attention is a phrase, and I can’t tell you where it is, but it says, … they could always tell where Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s mother, had been at Tara, their plantation, because they could “smell the lemon verbena sachet that she wore.” I thought how fun was that that people would know where you had been because they could smell a scent that you left in the room or space that they were now occupying. Ever since I could purchase my own perfume, I look for a scent that I love, that works for me and then I wear it every day.
The Apostle Paul wrote at least two letters to the church at Corinth and perhaps as many as four but two are included in the canon of the Bible. The others seem to be lost. There were numerous problems, concerns and issues with the church at Corinth and Paul spent much of his letters highlighting their problems and offering solutions to solve them. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds them of the difficult conversations in his letters and in person and prays for them. In chapter 2, he seeks forgiveness for anyone he or the church has grieved and asked them to seek forgiveness with and for those who were admonished.
Paul then reminds them and us in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16,
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.
Our ongoing work as followers of Jesus is to be the fragrance of life to those who are saved and the smell of death to those who are perishing.
What does the fragrance of Jesus look like in our everyday world? There are several Scriptures that come to mind:
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:12-14
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath…
- Romans 12:9-19
There are others but I think we get the idea. Our lives should reflect the Spirit of God living inside us and through us.
So on any given day, how do we actively hate what is evil and cling to what is good? How do we live in harmony with one another? In what ways do we live at peace with everyone?
These are “tall order” verses that can only be lived out through our connection with the Father and the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
How do I make that a reality?
Here are some thoughts and you may have others that you practice.
1. Spend time with the Father. How can we know what He thinks and wants our lives to be if we don’t spend time hearing from Him, listening to Him?
Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17
How’s your prayer life? If it’s not as great as it could be, find ways to make it a priority in your life. Too busy, you say?? Then find out what you need to give up or make getting up earlier or going to bed later a goal.
2. Make Scripture reading, memorization and practice a habit. The Bible is God’s love letter of redemption for all of humankind. It’s important for faithful living, today, tomorrow and all the days of your life.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Did you notice that it says ALL Scripture? That means the Old Testament and all the New Testament not just the red letters. It’s a guidebook for loving and living with those around you. It’s commands and directions are to give us life and when we follow them, they do exactly that – give us abundant life full of unanticipated joy and blessing.
I think I hear someone saying they’ve never been able to memorize the Bible. Might I suggest that if you know how to get to the grocery store from home without Google maps then you’ve found a way to memorize that. How much more important to memorize the Word of God to be stored in your heart to keep you from sin.
3. Give generously. Give of your time, talent and treasure. We have all been blessed abundantly so when you are offered an opportunity to share what you know, teach or speak; when you are challenged to sacrificially give, give abundantly, just as God gave Jesus to us; when someone asks for help, give not only your shirt but also your coat.
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
2 Corinthians 8:3
God will always out give our ability and our desire to give. He’s the greatest giver of all but He will enable us to give beyond what we believe we can do and He will bless and multiply not just the gift but also the generosity of the giver. So, when you are prompted to give at the grocery store at Christmas, remember what will be on your table and give. When the school drive is on to help less fortunate children, remember that your children want nothing.
Becoming the aroma of Jesus, the fragrance of life, begins with small steps and grows and grows.[KM1] Sad about the condition of the world, your church, your community, your workplace, become the fragrance of Jesus in big and small ways.
Let’s change the world through the presence and power of the Holy Spirt! Become the Fragrance of Life where you are![KM2]