Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Names and the Aroma of Christ

Some followers of Jesus look back on their lives and carry regrets about decisions made and not made, obediences abandoned, and calls unfulfilled. Sometimes we wonder if we let God down along the way and if our wrong turns—innocent or not—have put us on a paths that make us, at best, second class citizens in the kingdom of God.

I was helped in my own struggle in this area while reading a familiar text in 2 Corinthians. Here it is:

When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)

I suddenly realized that Paul stepped back out of the door that the Lord had opened. Was this a confessional statement? Was Paul sharing a hint of regret about abandoning the work in Troas because he was lonely for his friend Titus? Maybe so.

But in the next statements, Paul offers a reframing of the situation and paints a much larger picture of God’s work in the world and how followers of Jesus participate in that work:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. (v. 14)

For Paul, getting things right all the time was not the most important thing. The most important thing was, no matter the time or place, to carry the fragrance of Christ.

The most important thing is to smell like Jesus.

We’ve all turned one way when God seemed to be leading the other way. We’ve all lost heart and changed direction, more out of pain and fear than out of the conviction of God’s direction. And we’ve all carried the regrets that remind us of what should have been, what might have been, and where we’ve failed.

But none of those things are the most important. What is important is that we continue, even in our failures, to smell like Jesus.

In yesterday’s post I suggested that Evangelicals need a new name. What if Evangelicals were no longer known by the world because of their political power base, their particular doctrinal convictions, or their perceived knowledge of who is in or out with God? What if they were know as the one who carried with them, in all circumstances, the fragrance of Christ?

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