Fragrance in a Foul Smelling Environment

I recently had the privilege to minister in the Flint area. While there, I passed billboards and viewed commercials that advertised the arrival of a display of Titanic artifacts at the Sloan Museum in Flint. It has been over a century since it’s tragic collision with an iceberg, causing over 1,5000 people to perish. Yet, the display of the ship’s remnants continues to draw large crowds wherever they are exhibited.

When deep-sea divers were searching the wreckage of the ocean liner Titanic several years ago, among the items recovered was a leather case containing 40 small vials of perfume oil. The little bottles, which probably would have been sold in New York as the ingredients for cologne, belonged to a businessman from Manchester, England. When they pulled the case from the water, the fragrance of the oils filled the air, even after being submerged for almost a century.

“To smell something that smells the same as it did on the Titanic before it went down is simply incredible,” said Graham Jessop, an expert in the retrieval of such artifacts. That must have been a high quality perfume. The quality of that perfume allowed for an undeniable and unavoidable aroma of wonderful fragrance.

One time a woman slipped into the dining room after dinner, carrying a small vial. She broke it open and poured it on the head of the honored guest. The room was filled with the smell of very expensive perfume. “What a waste,” some of the guests said. “We could have sold that and helped the poor.” (The perfume cost almost a year’s pay.) But, the man she anointed cut their complaints short. “She’s done a beautiful thing. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” And indeed it has!

The woman in the story was Mary of the village of Bethany and her story is shared in John 12:1-8. The world in which she lived reeked with the stench of political oppression, warring ideological factions, and blatant immorality. Survival involved keeping a low profile and avoiding controversy. Because of her love for Jesus, Mary risked rebuke from the crowd and gave the very best she had. Her motives were as pure as the oil she offered. Even now, two thousand years later, her sacrifice is still remembered. And the aroma of her sacrifice is as sweet now as it was then.

The current culture blows putrid winds across the landscape of humanity, leaving in its wake an angry wave of intimidation. This intimidation is especially directed towards those who embrace Biblical values. Like Mary of Bethany, the church of Jesus Christ has the opportunity to step forward and humbly offer the oil of sacrifice.

It is essential in a world steeped in the stench of sin that the church effuse a gospel-centric aroma. 2 Corinthians 2:15 shares, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Christians are further admonished in Ephesians 5:2 to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

Christ calls us to give our best – our best love, our best service, our best offering. Our service is a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Him. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) And because it is offered to Him, it will always be remembered. He deserves it. And He will notice!

You have His word on it!
Ken Floyd
February 2017

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