Pratap Chandra Jena
Fragrance or sweet aroma is a delightful thing to the soul, while foul or pungent smell is very disgusting or nauseating. Sometimes, I wonder in deep gratitude for God's creation of olfactory organs able to taste the smell. It makes a great difference to the ambience of our living environment when it is perfumed even lightly. Sweet fragrance gives an exotic sense and reflects the taste and outlook of the person. The affluent and the kings in the olden days gave much priority in the preparation of various concoctions to get the best perfumes.
Our God, who had such a beautiful concept in the physical realm, does also transform it into the spiritual realm. Paul says of believers in Christ (saints) that "we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Cor. 2:15). It is also said that we are vehicles of the fragrance of His knowledge (2 Cor. 2:14). The redemptive and restorative work that God is doing in this perishing, putrefied, stinking, sinful world, is through His saints who love and obey Him. The saints can play this vital role alongside God as long as they can maintain their integrity and credibility.
The degenerate and doomed world is looking for people who emit an aroma of love, forgiveness, holiness and tenderness for others. The world is tired and disgusted with people who only talk big instead of exemplifying in their lives the character of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ "who has loved us and given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma" (Eph. 5:2). The ministry of those who minister with a spirit of love and sacrifice can likewise be a sweet smelling aroma to man and God.
The history of the Church is replete with examples of precious men and women of God who have been successful in changing the unhygienic conditions of individuals, families and societies from inside out, offering them a healthy, hygienic, spiritual ambience with accompanying spiritual aroma. These saints who keep emitting the fragrance of God may not be always acclaimed by the world. They may be like the many unsung and unnamed heroes of faith (Heb. 11). The recent published list of Christian martyrs (LOL Mar, 09) of the Kandhamal riot is just an example. There are others whose names may have been omitted. But the fact remains that all these martyrs who have offered their lives for the name of Jesus Christ have risen up to God as scented saints ever to delight God by their presence. Even though the world did not approve, God has indeed approved their sacrificial fragrance. It is a sad irony that during the riot, about 20% of the so called saints have also renounced their faith for fear of their life, family and property.
Fragrance Through Discipline
In ancient days, to get the desired quality of perfume, particular parts of the plant were to go through the rigorous process of cutting, drying, crushing, grinding, heating, mixing, etc. The concoctions were tested, and used, if approved by the alchemist. Similarly, the divine alchemist takes His saints through the rigours of many trials, sufferings and hardships even to the point of death in order to produce the desired quality of fragrance. Those who give in to the rigours of this discipline wholeheartedly become scented saints while those who sham, dodge and try to be men-pleasers become stinking saints.
The call of the hour is for saints of God who can truly impact the society as salt and light. Among other things, the areas in which a saint of God can spread the aroma of God are through a holy life with purity of mind, a Spirit-controlled life, one given to the discipline of studying God's Word, meditation and prayer, besides a genuine concern and compassion for the people who are lost. Our life becomes more fragrant when the self-centric life is oriented to God-centric and other-centric lives. No doubt this is difficult, but not impossible. With the Risen Immanuel-God with us-we can definitely live as scented saints.
Jesus Christ our model lived a sinless life and reached out to people doing and meaning only good for the people. Wherever He went, He spread the fragrance of God. To a few it was sweet smelling aroma, while to others it was obnoxious. People snubbed His teaching and life-style and finally got Him killed. As His saints, we cannot expect any better lot in this world. Flowers give out their fragrance, whether or not people make use of it. As faithful disciples of Christ we must remain faithful in spreading our God-given aroma by virtue of our nature and not just to get some accolade from people. The delightful, devoted act of worship of Mary in anointing the feet of Jesus prior to His death resulted in - "And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" (Jn. 12:3 b).