As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my wife and I had been actively involved in church leadership for over thirty years. All the churches that I served in as Assistant or Associate Pastor over the areas of Student Ministries and Music were small pioneering churches and thereby I was always on a part-time pay basis, with the understanding that as the church grew, so would my remuneration. Therefore in order to provide for my family I had to have a full time secular job… and sometimes another part-time one on the side!
I spent twenty years, mostly in management, at Hewlett Packard and then their spin off company Agilent Technologies. While in Bible School and a few years after I graduated, I worked for The Home Depot, with the last two in management positions. With every team I supervised in both companies, I had both those who appreciated my Christian faith and a few that didn’t, who seemed to enjoy poking me with jokes about my beliefs. And while I didn’t force my faith, I definitely strived to live my relationship with Jesus brightly, letting my team “breathe in the exquisite fragrance.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 The Message) Through the years I was able to help many members of my teams through tough personal situations when they felt comfortable and safe enough to come to me with their questions and needs.
At times though, it really amazed me how people who saw me every day in the workplace, went to the same meetings and observed the way I carried myself and how I answered the questions tossed at me concerning my faith by my few distractors, could come away with completely polar opposite renditions about me!
We have experienced this same dichotomy as we’ve interacted with different individuals as we’ve progressed in our journey with the battle for my wife’s health. And I have been very perplexed at how people can hear and see the same results with the majority of them agreeing with and supporting us while a small few have not…(while being very vocal about it, and avoiding personal contact with us.) The solution finally seemed to come as I studied 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. As you will recall in our last couple of posts, I described how I was understanding verse fourteen as showing us “How we should see ourselves,” verse fifteen as “How God see us” and now verse sixteen as “How others see us.”
The God’s Word © translation declares: “To some people we are a deadly fragrance, WHILE to others we are a life-giving fragrance.” That clearly states the dichotomy that I spoke of above. I really like the no nonsense way that The Message Bible puts it stating: “Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is RECOGNIZED by those on the way of salvation --- (as) an aroma redolent with life. Those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”
Both of those versions answered many of my questions. The Apostle Paul makes the difference in the reception to the presence or aroma of God between believers and non-believers very evident. But I also see some things concerning the way individual Christians can respond to certain things of God. In my many years of Christian leadership, I have come to realize how even strong, mature Christians can still have areas within their lives that they are needing to fully commit to the Lord.
All kinds of things can account for this from personal life experiences, the way they were raised, where they live, the Christian teaching they receive, their personality types and especially the amount of or lack of time they spend alone in 2-way conversation with Papa God in His Word and prayer.
The word “redolent” as used in the Message Bible paraphrase is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “full of fragrance or odor, causing thoughts or memories of something.” Our recent experience has demonstrated that the remembrances it evokes in some might not always be pleasant, as it reminds them of areas in themselves that need to be faced and or dealt with. So therefore it may cause them to respond to us in a negative way, or want to avoid us and the fragrance we carry about us.
I’ve personally experienced the anger and avoidance tendencies years ago about the time we were going through the trials and tribulations of the potential foreclosure on our home that I mentioned a few blogs ago. Along with the bank, it seemed like every bill collector in the world was calling us. It got to the point that the sound of the phone ringing or the distinctive tone of the mail truck going down our street made me fearful and angry. I made every excuse I could think of to not answer the phone or go out to the mailbox!
My false theory at the time was that if I ignored it and didn’t think about it, it would simply go away… But you know… it didn’t! Thankfully my wife saw what was going on, did some research, sat me down and made me address the situation with her. Once I finally faced my fears, we sought help and were able to get some relief through a bill consolidation plan, a new budget and a new job! I’m sure that I was not the nicest individual to deal with when I was still closed off to accepting the things I needed to change… and doing something about it. The interesting thing I came to learn through it all, was that I wasn’t really upset with those who were calling our delivering the “final notice” letters, I was upset with myself… and most likely a little bit with God because I thought He wasn’t helping us out like He should… even though He was trying to talk to me the whole time and I WOULD’NT STOP AND LISTEN!
So again, I have learned these last few years, that those who have contested many of the things we have and are doing in our fight for Piper’s good health, are most likely not really as upset with us as they are with God concerning the needy areas that the aroma of Christ that we carry reminds them of in their own lives. That realization has freed me up tremendously and enabled me to continue in my attempts to reach out to them with a new found supply of grace. In some respects I think that is what the process of love and forgiveness is all about as we seek to open doors of understanding and common roads of communication.
I would encourage you to meditate on these revelations this weekend. It just might help you to have a better understanding of how different folks you know and love can have polar opposite views on what they hear and see of you. It could be as whole new opportunity for God’s grace to flow! Have a great weekend and as you do keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to love and reach out to those who may not understand me today?”