FIRST-PERSON: 'Scratch & smell'
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP) -- An advertisement for a brand of perfume came in the mail the other day. On the flyer was a place to scratch and smell the fragrance. The purpose of the sample was to make you want to purchase the product.
We scratched and smelled, then threw the sample in the garbage. We were not impressed!
As followers of Christ, there are "scratch and smell" opportunities every day. In the normal rhythms of life, we touch the lives of those who do not know Christ -- those who have never experienced God's love and forgiveness through Christ. These touches are opportunities for our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, business partners and team members to sample the "fragrance" of knowing and following Christ. Every conversation, business dealing, community event and any social encounter is a scratch and smell opportunity to reveal the aroma of the Kingdom of God.
The question is, what kind of "scratch and smell" experience do others have when they rub up against us outside of our church buildings, away from our worship services and Bible studies? Does the fragrance of our lives remind them of sacrificial, unconditional love -- the kind of love that led God to send His only Son to die on a cross for our sins?
Or do our attitudes and behavior give off an odor of self-serving arrogance and pride? Do others smell the stench of materialism and consumerism so prevalent in today's culture? Worse, is it possible they smell nothing at all because our apathy, fear or lack of concern keeps everyone at a distance?
These scratch and smell opportunities are important for the church's testimony to the world. They are more important than budgets, buildings and programs combined. They have a greater impact than mission projects, revivals and special offerings. These day-to-day encounters will either negate or validate what we say we believe. Further, when our actions and lifestyle during the week are not consistent with what we preach on Sunday, the testimony of the church is lost. Even worse, the Kingdom of God is maligned.
On the other hand, the aroma of the Kingdom of God is the beautiful fragrance of love. When Christians truly and consistently love one another, they give off the scent of God's character and His unconditional love. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35).
This was very important to Jesus. He called this love for one another a "new commandment." Earlier in His ministry, He said the first and greatest commandment is to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.... And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." So, what is new about the commandment in John 13:35? We are to love each other as He loves us. The new standard for loving others is Jesus. This is the fragrance and aroma of God's Kingdom.
What kind of "scratch and smell" experience do others have when they bump up against us? Is the encounter memorable and pleasant? Or is the aroma one that pushes them away? May we strive to be the sweet smell of Jesus in the community where God has placed us.
Larry Doyle is director of missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association in North Carolina. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).