“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:18–25, ESV)
Have any of you ever used the phrase “this stinks?” As Christians are supposed to stink. In the verses before these Jesus spoke of those who would find us an attractive aroma of love attracting them to the truth of Christ. In these verses Jesus deals with the sobering reality that we won’t smell this way to everyone. In fact, as followers of Christ who are committed to letting His light shine through us and His truth flow from our tongues there will be those who see us as repugnant as the infamous dead skunk in the middle of the road. These people are the ones who not only have no love for God, but they are strongly opposed to Him and find anything remotely reminding them of His as totally and absolutely offensive. It is these people who would rather not have to smell our smell again. They are very comfortable with the aroma befitting their own views.
In this light, as those who abide in Christ and Him in us we are not to be surprised when we are rejected because in reality they have already rejected Him. We are no better, and we should expect no better treatment. It is His light shining into this sin into this sin infested world that exposes it for what it is, and those who belong to the father of this world don’t want any light to color them different from how they view themselves. They think they have it just right and they don’t need help, and any efforts to show them how lost and needy they are just raise their ire.
Jesus told His disciples that they rejected Him without any cause, and that they should not expect to be treated any different. Jesus had been out among the Pharisees and the religious leaders and He had demonstrated the power of God through incredible works, and they rejected Him, and because of that they were to remain in judgment. Their only hope was to have their sinuses changed through softened hearts and opened eyes. Then and only them would the fragrance of Christ prove itself pleasing, and then would those who bear His aroma be found acceptable.
Paul wrote about how our fragrance is perceived in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 where we read, “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. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:14–17, ESV)
How we smell to people really is not intended to be up to us. We are not to go about as men-pleasers, but as people commissioned by God who in His sight speak IN Christ in who we abide. How we smell then really has to do more with their spiritual acceptance than our brand of cologne or aftershave. To some we will truly become a pleasant aroma as they see and hear Christ in us. To others we will remains a stench as they continue to reject the One who remains as their judge. We are not snake oil salesmen, but ambassadors of the King.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, ESV)