The Christmas season draws us because of the plethora of smells tickling our noses. The scent of pine from our Christmas tree, the aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven, the fragrance of peppermint dispensed by our air fresheners all capture our attention and our imagination. While the holidays undoubtedly offer sweet scents and thus endear themselves to us, smells are given off all year long and by many things. One of those things is the Christian faith. Does it smell like Christian spirit around you?
The Sense of Smell
Most of us give little thought to the sense of smell, but the ability to smell has been important to humans since the very beginning. In fact, it is the oldest of the five senses. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/scent. This sense was and is a critical survival tool. https://www.verywellmind.com/new-research-explains-why-scent-triggers-such-powerful-memories-5116589 For example, when food smells rotten or milk smells spoiled, we avoid consuming it, thereby saving us gastronomical misery. If we smell smoke, we don’t enter a room or building as it warns us a fire may have started.
The sense of smell also provides pleasure. Getting a whiff of brewing coffee may make an early riser’s morning. The fragrance of a bouquet of flowers may give double pleasure – first from the flowers and second from the recognition the person who gave them to you loves you. Generally, a “scent” is a positive characterization indicating something sweet-smelling and fragrant. On the other hand, a “smell” could be a disgusting odor.
A Group Smells Like Something?
While people can relate to food and flowers giving off a smell, a group of people doing the same thing seems a puzzling thought. The idea rocketed to the public conscious with a hit song in the early 1990’s by the rock band Nirvana called “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Although a deodorant called Teen Spirit was on the market, that smell didn’t capture the point. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smells_Like_Teen_Spirit. The song received wide interpretation as a teen revolutionary anthem. Bottom line? Being around group members gave the unmistakable impression or “smell” of a rebellious attitude.
Smell in the Bible
References to smell are sprinkled throughout the Bible. Jacob tricked his father into giving him the blessing meant for the firstborn by wearing Esau’s clothes. Isaac recognized the smell of his son Esau and proceeded to mistakenly bless Jacob. Gen. 27:27. When King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thrown into the fiery furnace, the three emerged not even smelling of smoke due to God’s protection. Daniel 3:27. Mary poured sweet-smelling perfume on Jesus’ feet when he dined at Lazarus’ house. John 12:3. In each of these stories, smell plays a role and makes the account more vivid for the reader.
But of particular importance are the mentions of smell in the Bible connected with God. Leviticus contains more than a dozen references to an “aroma” pleasing to the Lord. https://www.gotquestions.org/aroma-sacrifice.html. This aroma arose from the sacrifices God’s people made to Him. For example, in Leviticus 1:9, the slain bull the priest placed on the altar resulted in a burnt food offering with an aroma pleasing to the Lord. A pleasing aroma to God is mentioned with various offerings in tabernacle worship, such as the grain offering in Leviticus 2:2. Noah’s burnt offering to God upon his exit from the ark also produced a pleasing aroma to God. Continuing into the New Testament, Ephesians 5:2 tells us God found Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross a fragrant sacrifice.
Is the Smell What’s Key?
While roasting meat or grain might smell appealing, the smell itself isn’t God’s focus. The key is what the smell represents. The sacrifice giving rise to the smell served as an atonement for sin, fulfilling God’s requirement of righteousness, and healing the breach between God and man caused by sin.
A sacrifice was a requirement in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, animals or food served as the sacrifice. But offerings had to be repeated as sin occurred thereafter. In the New Testament, Jesus, a human, offered a one-time sacrifice. His blood forever covered the sins of those who accepted Him and satisfied God’s plan to provide a way for redemption. What a sweet-smelling result!
What Should Christian Spirit Smell Like?
The focus today shifts to what believers smell like. Since the goal is to become more like Jesus, our aim needs to be to smell like Him. Paul addressed the situation in his second letter to the Corinthians: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+2%3A15+&version=ESV2 \. Our job is to spread the fragrance of knowledge of Him everywhere. 2 Cor. 2:14. This pleasing smell will draw others to our Savior.
Jesus embodied self-sacrificing love. He cared for and about others. He wanted them to know His father and to be freed from the bondage of sin. That is what He smelled like. Do others “smell” something similar when they are around us believers? If not, let’s apply some fragrant Christian spirit to our daily life.