Every spring right around this time of the year in North Carolina, wild honeysuckle blooms everywhere. You cannot walk outside without taking in the sweet smelling fragrance. It fills the air around you, and as you walk, drive or just stand out in the sunshine, the smell of its flowers fill your nostrils with its sweetness. I, for one, love the smell of honeysuckle. There is something aboutwaking up in the morning, stepping outside with my coffee and breathing deep of the sticky sweetness that is in the air. As I breathe in its fragrance I am reminded of the presence of God, the goodness of God and His mercy for another day. It takes me to a place where I am in awe of the glory of His creation and the reminder that today He is God and I am still His. I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with the sweetness of His creation, and I just want more of it. However, some people don’t think of honeysuckle the way I do. In fact, some people cannot stand the smell of it. It makes their stomachs turn and they avoid the smell at all costs.
This morning as I was taking in the sweet sticky smell of honeysuckle, a scripture passage came into my mind. I was reminded of something that Paul wrote about the aroma that we give off to others, the aroma of Christ in our lives. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2 that we are the aroma of Christ to the world, to some it is a sweet aroma, but to some, we stink!
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (ESV)
Honeysuckle is a vine that grows just about anywhere and everywhere trailing along fences, roadways, tree lines and the like. We are like the honeysuckle. We are part of a great vine, the Vine who is Christ. We are growing along the roadways and fence lines of life and people are passing us by, taking in the fragrance we give off every single day. As people pass us by the aroma of Christ will hit them, much like the smell of honeysuckle hits your nose when you walk outside this time of year. When it hits them, they are going to have one of two reactions. They are either going to take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma you are giving off or they are going to take a breath and turn away from you because to them, you stink.
I have, over the years, met with people who either liked me or for some reason hated me. Before I was a Christian they probably had good reason to dislike me. But, after become a Christian I did not deliberately seek to hurt people or cause them harm. If I hurt someone I am convicted and seek out their forgiveness. Before I was a Christian I would not do this, let alone admit that I needed forgiveness. However, on occasion there have been people that I have met along the way who for no apparent reason have disliked me. I have tried to be friends with them. I have served them, loved them and sought to know why they were so against me. After praying about it and seeking the Lord for why they don’t like me, His response is always, “It’s not you, it’s Me.”
It took me a few years to come to the realization, and the acceptance of the truth that not everyone is going to like me. I will admit that over the years I was a people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. We are all people pleasers; it is human nature I believe, to want people to like us. I don’t care what you say to me, we all want to be liked by others. After much praying and finally accepting the truth that I wanted to be liked, I finally was able to see that not everyone will like me and that is okay. In fact, if they don’t like me then maybe I am doing something right. If they don’t like me and I have done nothing to them but smell like Christ then I am doing exactly what God wants me to do and who better to seek to please than Him?
There are going to be people that are going to like the smell of Christ in you, but then there are going to be some who are going to be repulsed by the aroma that comes off of you. If you get nothing out of the words I am writing today, I pray you at least come to this understanding. The fact that they don’t like who you smell like is not your problem, it is theirs. It is not personal. It is a matter of their hearts before a God they do not want to bow down to. It is a matter of their sin in the face of our Savior. It is not personal. Paul encourages us as well as he writes to us about our fragrance. He encourages us that no matter what others might think of us, we can always be thankful because to our God we are a sweet smelling aroma of Christ.
We are the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle on a warm spring day. He delights in us. He takes great joy in us. He smells Christ in us and nothing gives our Father in heaven greater pleasure than the smell of His Son coming from our honeysuckle vines. We are the fragrance of Christ not only to our Father in heaven, but to the world around us as well. To some it will be pleasing, but to others it will be repulsive.
We are known to other Christians not only by our confession of belief in Jesus, but also by our triumphal procession as we give off His fragrance. As we grow along the roadways of this life there will be others who pass us by who will be saved and will breathe in the life of Christ because of our fragrance. There will be other Christians who will become encouraged by your fragrance and will grow stronger and more fragrant because you were not afraid to smell like Christ. They will be encouraged to keep pressing on in a trial, or perhaps they need comfort and your sweet smelling aroma is just what they need to make it one more day. Your fragrance could be the aroma they need to finally experience the sweet smelling life of Christ.
Then there will be those who will walk by us and want to destroy us. They will want to pull us up from the roots and tear away every last branch that is on us. They will want to cut us down and throw us into the fire. Not because we offended them, but because the smell we give off to them is a reminder of how sinful they truly are and how far away from God they have fallen. People do not choose to follow God because they enjoy their sins too much. Let us be honest and real for just a minute. You took so long to come to Christ not because you did not know Him or know of Him, but because your sin was too much fun. It was not until you were able to breathe in the sweet fragrance of His sacrifice that you submitted to Him and were saved. Those who are repulsed by the aroma of Christ in you are not because you stink, but because they stink with sin. What they breathe in is death, but what you give off is life.
We must remember when we are faced with this opposition to our lives, to the fragrance of Christ in us, that it is not us they hate, it is Christ in us that they hate. We have not done anything wrong. Our fragrance is a reminder to them of how far they have fallen, and the rebellion that they choose to live in. To those who are perishing we are a constant reminder of the frailty of life and the choice they make to reject God in their everyday life. We are a reminder that death is coming to them, and the choice that they make today will determine where they spend tomorrow. To those who are perishing we stink. But to those who are growing with us, we are life.
The honeysuckle growing in my yard, along the fences and roadways in my state don’t stop giving off their fragrance because a few passer-by’s don’t like the smell. They don’t hide who they are and what they smell like just because someone is offended. They keep giving off the fragrance that God gave them and they bless many of us with the sweetness of their aroma. Our Father takes great delight in their fragrance, and even more so, He takes great delight in you too. You never know who needs to smell you today, so go ahead- don’t be afraid to stink. Amen.