Day 319 “God’s Standard” 2 Corinthians 1 – 3
November 16, 2021, 9:06 AM

Day 319 “God’s Standard” 2 Corinthians 1 – 3

This letter of Paul has been sent a few years after the first one, and the church in Corinth has spread farther out into surrounding lands, which is why Paul also mentions Achaia—the church has grown!

But bigger churches can end up having bigger problems, right? A ‘successful’ church (it is hard for me even to refer to a church that way) ore even a bigger church draw in more people, more attention, and sometimes, more distractions. Paul himself has been subject to some kind of extreme suffering that he refers to, but does not dwell on in the course of this letter.

The spread of the Christian Church among the people has also given rise to fancy, well-presented speakers who teach about Jesus, but for their OWN purposes. Basically, there were televangelists even in the time of Paul! It’s not that these teachers had no faith, but they used their own charisma and gifts to benefit themselves, to teach more comfortable truths about the gospel of Jesus, and to line their own pockets with gold and silver.

Paul does not seem to be particularly charismatic or flashy. In fact, he is a working-class man, and he is a divisive figure. Perhaps this is why he had not returned to Corinth as he had promised (see v. 1:23 – 2:1). He is clearly consoling them. Note the use of that word over and over in the very beginning of this letter: ten times in five verses.

But this section of Second Corinthians also contains one of my favorite images in Paul’s writing, so much a favorite that I structured an entire retreat for women around these verses several years ago.

“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. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to one the fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2: 14 – 16).

Do you have a favorite perfume or soap or shampoo? Or do you have a favorite aroma that you remember from your childhood? The smell of something specific that your mother or father made? Does the smell of balsam bring you back to a cabin in the woods that you love?

Our sense of smell is the most direct connector to memory for most of us. We can close our eyes and be right back to a place from our childhood.

One quick story to illustrate this: as a child, my father worked a terrible manual labor job to support his family (7 children), a job that cost him more than I believe it earned for him.  He worked in the castings industry, pouring blistering-hot, molten metal into forms to make a variety of machinery. He would come home with burns on his arms, with blackened fingernails that never came clean, and with a particular smell that I never identified, until…

…many years later, my family lived in West Virginia, and we took our two sons, Alex and Christian, who were perhaps 4 and 6 years old, to do a tour of a coal mine. We got into the coal car and began to descend into the mine. When we got to the deepest part of the mine, the guide wanted us to experience pure darkness as we had never before known it, and he turned off all the lights, putting us into pitch blackness (remember that ‘pitch’ itself is a kind of tar). The entire time I had been nudged by something I could not identify, but the moment those lights went off and I sat with only the scent of the mine around me, my mind fairly screamed “Dad!” My dad’s work must have been fueled by coal fires to melt the metals. His gritty, working-man smell, his blackened nails, they all came from working with coal. I felt as though I had put a key piece into the puzzle of who my father was, and what he did to help us survive. To this day, the smell of coal brings me both warmth of memory and shame, because I never truly appreciated the sacrifices my father made so that we could eat our bread and margarine sandwiches.

How about a good fragrance? The smell of perfume wafting behind someone that makes you pick up your head to sniff with curiosity. The night Alistair and I drove down a local street and we both suddenly became like bloodhounds, lifting our noses and sniffing at the smell of grilling food nearby.

If we are the fragrance of Christ to God and to others, imagine the subtly of that. We don’t need to enter a room and overwhelm people, but it would be so helpful if we left behind something that made people remember who we bring with us, who we represent, and what we believe. What does it mean to be a fragrance of life? What does it mean to be the fragrance of Christ? How can put that on before we leave our homes, much like a favorite scent? And how do we bring that, since it is not a literal scent? Is it in our words that others ‘smell’ our faith? Is it in the way that we behave? Our kindness? Our ability to listen, to offer prayer, to show compassion?

Would it change the way we see ourselves if we truly believed that we bring this scent everywhere we go? How about if, when we spritzed on actual perfume each morning before leaving the house (if you do that—I do), we thought of it as putting on the fragrance of Christ to remind ourselves of our hope, our boldness, our ability to fill a room with the presence of Jesus? And lest I be accused of leaving out men, perhaps the usual smell of aftershave or soap or, I don’t know, coffee breath???

But now that I mentioned coffee breath, what if the impression we leave behind about Jesus makes people turn away from him rather than turn towards him? We must also have that capacity as well, mustn’t we?

On this cold, first snow-frosted day (in Johnstown at least), may we remember the high privilege of carrying the aroma of Life, of Light and of Hope into the world, not because WE ‘smell’ good, but because the message of Christ lingers long after we have gone.

Imagine if someone were able to say this to us “Mmmmmm…you smell like faith and love today!”

Be blessed and carry the scent of blessing to others,



11-16-2021 at 10:45 AM
Joan Longfritz
The smell of tar reminds me of my father. He worked on the highway dept and paved roads in the summer.
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