It was a faint smell at first emanating from our dining area, almost a sickening sweet smell to my olfactories. But within a day, the odor was clearly identifiable—it was the smell of death. A couple months earlier we had seen a mouse run for cover down a heating vent. I put poison in the crawlspace and we never saw it again. The unwelcome intruder, we suspect, died not far from where it last appeared, for that is where the smell was the most intense. For more than a year, my wife said she could still detect its lingering scent.
The smell of death is immediately recognizable. There is never a doubt about what the odor is. This is exactly the point Paul is making of his experience sharing the gospel. Those whose hearts are open to it, like a pleasant aroma, are drawn to it. Those whose hearts are hardened, like the smell of death, are repulsed by it.
I was like that when I was young. I thought true followers of Jesus were weird and I wanted nothing to do with them. They repulsed me. But then in my first year of college, I became acquainted with a few. The love and joy I saw in their lives was very attractive to me. I was drawn to Jesus through them.
Salvation only comes through complete surrender of our wills to God. For many, that very thought outweighs the love and joy which accompanies the surrender. The idea of giving up their will is repulsive. They cannot stand it and will reject any notion of it.
In our culture today, one of the worst social offenses is to offend someone. So we go out of our way to avoid offending anyone. However, the fact is the gospel is offensive to those who reject it and any attempts to make it more palatable so they will be more accepting dilute its message. Neither Paul nor Jesus were concerned about offending people. They just spoke the truth in love and accepted whatever response they received.
Today, know the gospel will be offensive to people whose hearts are hardened. In it, they smell the aroma of death. It is to them a repulsive odor. But others whose hearts are open will smell the scent of life and embrace it. Regardless of the reaction you may receive, always be willing to share the message that to you smells so sweet.
© Jim Musser 2017