The lives of Christians should smell of Christ, his delight, his grace and truth. At church on Sunday Gareth Davies from CARE challenged us with the fact that Christians are often perceived to only get involved in political issues when we want to resist or complain about something. Hardly a delightful aroma - and hardly likely to get listened to. We need to take care that the aroma of Christ isn't extinguished or covered over by some other, unappetising, aroma emanating from Christians.
Because there are, tragically, those who find the aroma of Christ unappetising anyway. Extremely unappetising. Paul says in v15 that those who are perishing by refusing to accept God's love think that Christ smells like death. In the UK there are any number of atheists shouting loudly in the public sphere that they find the Christ who has captured my heart with overwhelming love, disgusting. Who hear the Good News and believe it is immoral and evil. He smells like death to them.
But others sense the perfume of the Son of God dying for them and it is the best thing they have ever smelled. They perceive it quite differently. He is a delight to their spirits. The Good News is the sound of life, not the stench of death to them and they are saved forever.
The gospel - and Christians with the gospel - are perceived as both of these aromas. Both life and death according to whether someone is coming alive to God or is walking away from him. But let's distinguish carefully so that what someone is walking away from is the Good News rather than the pong of unappetising Christians.
And let's not be reticient about speaking and living a fully-orbed, grace-filled, love-saturated gospel, worried that it will turn some people off. Even Paul says "who is adequate for such a task as this?" With the clear implication that we aren't in ourselves, but by God's grace we are. Let's not fall into the trap of thinking that our job is to win people for Christ by making the gospel palatable to the modern mind, getting rid of the bits that non-Christians find it hardest to accept. Because that is all of it. No, the gospel is impossible for anyone to accept unless God draws them. But when he does, no inability to answer difficult questions is going to keep people away.
Praying that he will capture many today with his love. Which he will. And that he will captivate you.