November 8, 2020

What’s That Smell?

I am absolutely fed up with air freshener commercials. When confronted with an odor, people look like they are in physical pain. Then the commercials depict them spraying or using whatever specific product is being advertised to make their environment smell better. As they administer the magic potion, they smile (and in one commercial, actually dance!). Immediately life is perfect, tranquil, and serene.

Many in our world are living without Jesus, and their environment stinks. And here’s the crazy part: we can actually make it stop stinking—or make it worse.

Cover Up or Clean?

One fragrance brand brags that its product doesn’t temporarily “cover up” but actually cleans the offensive odor. Just so, many in the world today use things to cover up the world’s stench—drugs, comfort food, questionable experiences, ill-advised relationships, etc. But Christians are the only ones who know how to be truthfully clean, not just cover up the bad odor. This happens only through the power of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Corinth: “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Cor. 2:14, 15, NLT).1

Stop the Stench

So how can we ensure that we are surrounded by a Christ-like fragrance? Here are three suggestions:

Stay connected with God. The next two suggestions won’t do any good if we’re not serious about this one. To positively affect our environment, we must connect daily with God. Christians derive their power, peace, and purpose through Him.

Take time daily to interact with God through prayer and Bible study, and during the day meditate upon His Word. Interestingly, this first suggestion is 100 percent internal and private. Just as a tree with healthy roots produces healthy fruit, so lives governed by an intimate relationship with God produce “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22, NIV).2

Live a happy life. Even when we don’t think we’re being watched—trust me, people are watching. At the grocery store, at work, at the park, or at school, people are watching to see how we live; how we deal with difficulties and discouragements. This makes an impact, an impact they can’t easily disregard.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be super positive all the time and see the world through rose-colored glasses. But we should, in the midst of all the stuff of life, choose to focus on praising God.

The apostle Paul wrote: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18-20, NLT).

This suggestion is not internal and private, but external and public. We can consistently live the way God wants us to live only through God’s power. The results will be positive. Ellen White made this observation: “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity.”3

Serve others disinterestedly. This last suggestion will be, for many, the most difficult and scary to do. But the most powerful way to sweeten the atmosphere around us is to serve others.

As Christians, our goal is to be more like Jesus. He showed His love for God by serving others, even at His own expense. He told His disciples: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28).

Ellen White wrote this about serving others: “Men may combat and defy our logic; they may resist our appeals; but a life of holy purpose, of disinterested love in their behalf, is an argument in favor of the truth that they cannot gainsay.”4

Smelling Good for God

With all that’s happening in the world, we Christians need to be focused on reaching others with God’s love. Our goal must not be just to draw close to God, live a happy life, and serve others. Ultimately, we should introduce others to God, the only One who can truly and permanently remove sin’s stench.

So the next time we use (or smell) air freshener, let’s remember that we can be God’s air freshener in our smelly world.

Omar Miranda lives in Plainville, Georgia, where he is a counselor and freelance writer and editor.

1 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

3 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 122.

4 Ellen G. White, My Life Today (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 220.