Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab / window):
Psalms 5; 147:1-11, Exodus 7:8-24, 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6, Mark 10:1-16

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul wrote:

“[W]e are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Fragrances are complex. What smells pleasant on one person’s may be noxious on some else. Just as body chemistry interacts with the composition of cologne or perfume, spiritual “chemistry” impacts the impression we make on those we meet. There is no single way to live as a Christian. If we slap on a particular style of speech or manners just because it is popular or endorsed by a celebrity, and it doesn’t authentically line up with who we are, the effect can be disastrous. At best we may seem like a cheap knock-off, at worst we will radiate a stench of deception. Authenticity is more important than brand recognition.

The powerhouses of attraction are not the fragrances we spray on, but those scents other people may not consciously detect. Pheromones are chemical signals secreted by animals and humans to trigger physiological responses in others. We don’t consciously control them, yet they can powerfully influence attraction or repulsion.

What signals of spirit and character do we unknowingly emit? When people encounter us, do they sense we are more interested in sharing the good news, or in showing off how “saved” we are? Do our words and actions leave an aftertaste of love or judgment? If we parrot Christ’s message of love, but live it out through anger and condemnation, our fragrance quickly turns from sweet to sour.

We can’t control other people’s perceptions, but we can cultivate authentic and loving hearts. Be truthful, even when it means admitting you have doubts. Reserve judgment, for someone sharing a beer and bad karaoke may reach a lost soul more effectively than a pew and a hymn – and vice versa. Don’t let your testimony be the cheap cologne that lingers unpleasantly after you go. Let it be the undetectable fragrance others can’t help but pursue.

Comfort: Your way of being Christian, as long as it grows from an authentic relationship with Christ, will speak to the people who need to hear it.

Challenge: Do any of the ways you express your faith feel artificial? How could you change them, or maybe even abandon them entirely?

Prayer: Loving God, may my words and actions be a sweet aroma, drawing the world to your grace. Thank you for meeting me where I am, loving me as I am, and challenging me to be more. Amen.

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