Not long ago, I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Tennessee. They have one of those energetic Australian cattle dogs. Roux lives a fairly docile life indoors but then expends all her pent-up energy whenever they open the door to their spacious backyard. Roux especially loves to chase any cat in view.
Or anything that looks like a cat.
One evening, we were sitting around talking in the den when Roux barked to come in from one of her backyard jaunts. As soon as the door opened, we knew there was a skunk in the yard. Less than half a second later, we knew there was skunk all over Roux’s face.
The whole house reeked of the unambiguous smell. Before Roux could rub against anything, my brother Dave whisked her up to give her a thorough bath, where he would employ every home remedy known to man to try to minimize the odor.
I say minimize, because the smell was still there. And strong. Skunk smell lingers for days, if not weeks, no matter what you do. So after Roux’s 30-minute bath, she smelled better, but the house was still a pungent reminder of her misadventure.
The next morning, we woke up thinking the smell had faded. Actually, the only thing about the scent that had dissipated was our ability to smell it. Every one of us who went outside and came back in was greeted with a slap across the face from the onerous odor.
Bacon makes everything better
Before breakfast, I decided to take a shower to rid myself of whatever lingering skunk molecules had attached to my skin and hair. Halfway through the shower, I was overcome by a strong, familiar smell. Not an unpleasant one; one that rescued my senses.
Whoever was in the kitchen was cooking bacon. Its wonderful smell was wafting down the hall, sneaking under the crack of the bathroom door, and over the shower curtain to rescue me from the olfactory assault of the past half day.
When I finished my shower and opened the bathroom door, everything in the house smelled not like skunk, but like bacon.
I know it’s not kosher, but I couldn’t help but think about 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 when I smelled the bacon.
“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. Who is sufficient for these things?”
A pleasing aroma
Besides rotting road kill, there are few smells to me more evocative of death than skunk. To me (and probably a lot of other guys), there are few more heavenly smells on earth than bacon. A whiff in my nostrils breathes life to my sensory soul.
There can be a lot of rottenness in the world. At times, it’s so obvious and undeniable it’s nearly enough to knock you for a loop. Even then, we can become accustomed to the stench and even oblivious to it as our senses turn off in self-defense.
As followers of Christ, our presence should hint at the presence of Christ nearby. I’ll remind you we never saw the skunk, but we never had to. It was there. When non-believers and fellow Christians alike are in our presence, we should radiate the aroma of Christ—everything He is and everything He taught.
Unfortunately, too many “Christians” often emit just a generally skunky odor more times than they do the aroma of Christ. But we need to remember our words, attitudes, and actions never stay with us, but end up filling our surroundings and affecting everyone nearby. The world can be stinky enough without us adding to it.
Be the good
So how do we overcome the aroma of skunky death with the aroma of Christ? By introducing the good to overwhelm the bad. Even in the worst or most godless situations, there is usually some remnant of God’s truth to reclaim and refresh those around us. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we just need to train ourselves to find those good things, to bathe ourselves in them, and then to let the goodness waft their way to others.
One verse is particularly helpful to me, and I’ve italicized certain words to drive the focus home. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
As we talk about the good things God gives through Christ, the redeeming notions of everyday life, we can replace the stench of a tainted world left by an unseen enemy and replace it with an aroma that attracts everyone.
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