Bugs love it and humans hate it. It’s the pungent odor of the Rafflesia flower, a plant that can weigh more than 15 pounds and measure more than 3 feet across! This botanical beast smells like decaying flesh or rotting meat, an odor that carrion beetles and flies adore. Although this bloom attracts insects, it repels people. Its stench is so foul that people have nicknamed it the “corpse flower.”
The Bible describes something similar when it comes to the “aroma” that Christians can emit. “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Because these people refuse the offer of Jesus’ grace and we represent the gospel of Christ, our testimonies can be unwelcome reminders of the consequences of rejecting Jesus.
On the other hand, some people think Christians “smell” wonderful. “To those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume” (2 Corinthians 2:16). When our lives reflect His goodness, we inspire and encourage people who are choosing to follow Jesus (Ephesians 5:2). Love, sacrifice, truthfulness, courage—these qualities (and more) allow God to use “us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Like a vapor rising from a bottle of perfume, our task as Christians is to infuse the world with an awareness of our Savior. It’s no wonder that Paul asked: “Who is adequate for such a task”? (2 Corinthians 2:16). Although we may feel inadequate at times, the Bible assures us that “Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Alive in us, God’s Holy Spirit guides and speaks through us so that our lives can be “a Christ-like fragrance, rising up to [Him]” (2 Corinthians 2:15).