In some Christian traditions, the priest walks down the center of the church, waving an urn of burning incense. The sweet smell fills the church as an act of worship to God, and all are reminded of the sacrifice of Christ, of how his sacrifice wafts to and fro from the cross into the world as the witness of God's love.
And now, as the church, we are called to be that sweet aroma to the world around us.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15What we all need to remember is that being a “missional church” is not just another program or another way to creatively “peddle the word of God” to an unbelieving world.
No, being missional is to truly embrace the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in such a way that we ourselves live a life of affliction as we live in the resurrection power provided by the Holy Spirit.
What I mean is this: to be truly missional, one must have actually experienced the pains of being a follower of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, makes this abundantly clear. You cannot be missional unless you know, really know, Christ. And you cannot really know Christ unless you’ve experienced suffering. And when we have that experiential knowledge of Christ, then we are capable to ministering to those in a hurting world.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:4-5)Being missional is to experience and identify with Christ’s sufferings so that you can comfort those around you as the incarnation of Christ in their lives, offering His comfort.
As we live with the people in this world in this missional way, the scent of God will waft to and fro from our lives. Not as a program or a glitzy new preaching paradigm, but as authentic lives lived among those in need.
Our experiences of suffering are the very essence of what it means to be incarnational in this world. Some will see our suffering and say, “No, thank you. Not for me. That smells like death.” But others will smell salvation.
“To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Cor 2:16)
Our lives as Christians are meant to be “living sacrifices.” These sacrifices smell very, very good to God. The question is, are we willing to be that kind of aromatic witness to the world?
Are we, as Paul was,
“men of sincerity, commissioned by God, in the sight of God, speaking in Christ?” (2 Cor. 2:17)