My friend Leslie recently gave thanks for a “nosy” neighbor. Perhaps I should clarify by saying that she was really thanking God for a neighbor with a good nose. Unknown to Leslie a gas leak had formed in the pipeline that entered her home. Fortunately, the pipeline is next to her neighbor’s driveway. As soon as he smelled it, he alerted her to the problem and disaster was averted.
Did you know that natural gas is actually both odorless and colorless? As a precaution, the utility company adds an odorant that smells like rotten eggs to help people notice gas leaks. What a good idea!
Perhaps God does something similar—only he does it with his followers who faithfully share the Good News. The apostle Paul spoke of his passion for spreading the gospel wherever he went, saying that by doing so, his life had become a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But he noted a strange phenomenon: not everyone perceived that fragrance the same way. To those who were open to the gospel, Paul smelled like an inviting perfume, but to those who were not, he smelled noxious. Here’s how The Message puts Paul’s words:
“Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse”
(2 Corinthians 2:15).
As we witness about Christ, through our lives and our words, the gospel is either perceived as an invitation or as a premonition, depending on the state of a person’s heart. Regardless of that dynamic, we cannot stop sharing, first, because we cannot judge the paths people will eventually take, and second, because that bad smell may be just the warning they need to turn around and embrace the way to salvation and peace.