Some years ago, while attending a conference, I chatted with a fellow pastor from Canada. After we chatted awhile he mentioned he was having a little trouble because his sinuses were acting up. As I offered some usual pastoral responses he went on to explain that he was allergic to most perfumes, colognes, etc. He was bemoaning the fact that he was not back home because where he lived in Canada they had ‘scent free zones.’ Even some elevators and busses were scent free. Having never heard of such a thing I was stunned. He explained that Canadian law had stepped up to protect those with his type of allergies. While you and I might think no scents makes no sense, to him – and I’m sure to many others – it was a blessing.
The next day, another pastor who had been part of that conversation chatted with me again. She and I were expressing sympathy for people with such allergies but also amazement that the law could actually go as far as to ban scents. We bantered back and forth, tongue in cheek. “On the one hand the law was protecting some from danger but it was also restricting others in their freedoms.” “I mean, isn’t there some medication for such allergies?” “Why penalize us who are healthy?” We wondered where such laws might end if all allergies led to prohibitive laws. It’s a difficult balance. As I thought about those conversations a principle came to mind: “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.”
I got my clue from the apostle Paul. He wrote “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. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 New Living Translation)
Paul knew that Christians have an odor. Some are allergic to it – for them it is the aroma of death.
Some are drawn to the aroma – for them it is new life.
But for Paul there was no difficult balance – he urged us to spread the scent. This is especially true when we are among people, or in places where there is no Christly aroma – a scent free zone. “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.” It’s the only thing that makes sense. Whereas people do not choose their physical allergies, reaction to the scent of Christ is a personal choice. People must smell Jesus so they can have a choice of life or death. They must smell the aroma. So “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.” Each person who picks up your scent will determine whether or not they have a deadly allergy.
Well, it’s brief but that’s my two cents worth. I hope it makes sense. “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.”