Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stink or Aroma

O.K. Stink got some attention. But do you know the difference between Stink and Aroma? In today's society of relativism we'd say, it depends on who's stink you believe. Or, maybe, we keep trying to answer right or wrong questions that determine your smell. In my earlier article I tried to show how we who define ourselves as Christians are so ill tempered that we do nothing but present bad smells. We war over doctrine, turf, as illustrated by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher monks, theology, and perhaps most noticed in our generation of right vs. left politics. And so we stink up the place by substituting the love of Christ for our personal gods, which always smell fishy.

One sharp eyed reader agreed with me and than added, but we all stink. His point is that the reason Christians stink, using my odorous metaphor,is because we are human and there is something wrong with all of us. Christians will even argue over this. Those of the Reformed tradition will will argue that we are wicked and desperately evil. Others, like the Catholics will argue, "no, we are made in the image of God and are simply flawed as a result of sin and separated from God." Then there are all those somewhere in the middle.

I agree with my PhD. friend. That was the one thing that I deliberately left unsaid. But that still leaves a question. And that is, what makes us stink and what makes us smell good. I ended the last blog with a question. How do you smell?

Read these words carefully, "For we are a sweet perfume of Christ to God in those who are getting salvation and in those who are going to destruction." 2 Corinthians 2:15 (Bible in Basic English)

So there is a time when we smell good. When is that? First of all, that is when God smells us in Christ. God looks at us through Jesus Christ. His enormous love wipes away our stink. In fact, there is no stink. We are a sweet smelling aroma to God when we follow Christ. But even more we read,
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

We smell good because even before we decided to follow Christ, God loved us. We smell good to him because Christ bore our stink on Calvary. He who bore no sin, became sin for us on the Cross.
The apostle Paul goes even further, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" "No, In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35, 37

So God removes our stink through Christ because he loves us. But, you say, we still stink. We still sin.
Yes, we do. We are always sinning because we are still humans. But, when we allow Christ to be our Lord and Master, we receive his Spirit to become more like him.

So what smells good to God and others? We smell good to God by Grace and we smell good to others only by grace. In our own strength, we can't do it. But when we submit to God, he give us grace to smell good. How?
Let me illustrate.

"Be upright in judging the cause of the man from a strange country and of him who has no father; do not take a widow's clothing on account of a debt." Deut. 24.17 Bible in Basic English

I used the Old Testament on purpose to show how God's love is shown in the Old Testament. Jesus carried this over in his New Covenant. God made this statement because widows, orphans, the poor, the stranger or immigrant (illegal or otherwise, I might add) or any other race or disenfranchised group are to be provided assistance. Here, he hits at a common element in all societies, then and now. There are people in our world that fall into these categories. Political parties of all persuasions will often neglect these people in order to insure they remain in power or "their" rich remain happy. It's called justice and is the most neglected truth in Christianity. Especially Evangelical Christians who are often politically motivated.

We as Christians used to be known for our love for the alienated. All of the early child labor laws, slavery laws, especially in England, and many other social issues were championed by Christians. And the Catholic church probably is the best in providing for the poor. Their relief agencies are everywhere.

This smells good to God. Ask the poor if they appreciate help. When we stand up for them in causes of justice and peace we smell good to them. We no longer stink but are a sweet smelling aroma. When Christ uses us to bless others, we smell good to him and those receiving our love. Not because we did what we did because Christ already loves us. But because we through Christ became a tool of love to those who need love.

Now, will we always smell good? No. We will continue to smell good to those who need love. But as I said in my earlier post, the world will always hate us because they hated Christ. Light overcomes darkness rather than darkness overcoming light. Ever seen a black flashlight obliterating light? Those in darkness prefer darkness and don't like light. And when light shines on them all they see is judgement and right or wrong questions.

So the love of Christ is a threat to them. Which explains why in so many places of the world, Christ and the cross is so hated. And it will always be that way. We live in a nation that is moving farther and farther away from righteousness. Christians are becoming more and more hated. Often for good reasons. But more often, because we shine light in darkness.

So I return to the question in my earlier post. How do you smell? Do you live in the saving love of God? Does he live his love in your life before others? Nothing is more important. Jesus summed up the whole law by his new law. "You shall love the lord your God, with all your heart, soul and strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself." That smells good.

God bless

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