2 Corinthians 2:14-16
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
For many years of my life, I went to New Orleans to share the gospel with revelers during mardi Gras. This was always a fascinating time of ministry. We were not, by the way, the harsh guys with the bullhorns and cruelly worded signs. Instead, we often had our most productive conversations with people who were walking away from those guys.
One year, in New Orleans, I remember thinking to myself, “What possible good am I doing here?” People were not responding very positively to our presentations of the gospel. No one was being radically saved on the Bourbon Street sidewalks. Instead, everything we did seemed to meet with as much apathy as anything.
At some point in thinking this issue through with other brothers in Christ on the street, we stumbled upon the truth of the verses above. We first worded it this way: “We are being a witness, either to someone’ salvation or their condemnation.” What we meant was that our sharing of the gospel to the inebriated masses in the Crescent City was not empty. Either a person would be saved, eventually, and look back and perhaps remember that they had heard the gospel truth in New Orleans as one step on their path to conversion. Otherwise, a person would not be saved, and as they eventually would stand before God, they would remember that they did hear the true gospel at least once on the streets of New Orleans. Either way, that gospel witness would be recalled in their story of salvation or condemnation.
It was interesting, then, to happen across the same sentiment in the life of Paul in 2 Corinthians 2. Paul talked of his gospel witness as a smell. To some, the message of the cross stinks. To others, it is glorious. To some, the cross will lead them to death, as the cross is the center of their rejection of God and is love. To others, the cross is beautiful, as it is the place where they find God’s mercy and become his child.
Christians, right now, you are a smell. So, make as much smell as you can. Tell people about Jesus. Share the gospel. You might see people saved. You might not. Either way, it is your job to be faithful. Perhaps your presentation of the cross and the risen Savior will stink to them and be one more charge against them on judgment day. Perhaps your witness will only be one more way in which the Lord will tell them that he put his grace in front of them to receive. Or, perhaps your presentation of the cross will smell sweet. Perhaps your gospel presentation will be one part of what God uses to plant a seed, water it, or harvest a saved soul. Either way, you are used by God to accomplish his will for his glory.