A Perfume; A Stench!

When, as a Pastor, I am invited into another’s life to bring comfort in times of sadness or stress, I consider it a privilege. When I have the opportunity to help a family cope with loss, or to offer hope to a person who has lost sight of tomorrow, I am most thankful for the call of God to pastoral service. The moments I enjoy least are those when, as a Preacher, confrontation becomes necessary, when unsolicited correction must be given to someone who is wandering from the Way. It is hard to say, ‘this needs to change!’ Most of the time such confrontation is met with defensiveness or even outright hostility. But I know that my call involves being both pastor and prophet; that is, being a shepherd and a proclaimer.

Jesus’ ministry had two sides. Little children climbed onto His lap indicating He was a warm and approachable Man. A adulterous woman who was dragged before Him by men seeking judgment heard only the kindest words of restoration and forgiveness. A father whose daughter had died watched in amazed wonder as Jesus entered the dead girl’s room and raised her to life! What a ministry! Who wouldn’t want to love little kids, restore those broken by harsh judgment, and speak life-giving words? But this same Jesus was also the One who entered the Temple and, with a whip in his hand, drove out those who were making a profit from selling sacrificial animals- yelling “You have made this house of prayer into a den of thieves!” He was the One who looked a materialistic young man in the eye and said, “Go sell all your stuff, then come and follow me!” He was the One who said, “No one can serve two masters… you can’t love God and Money.” He was both a Shepherd and a Prophet!

So what does that have to do with you?
Believer, in this world we all are called to the work of Christ, which involves both comfort and confrontation! Love and Truth must find a counter-balance in our lives. If we only love, we lose the ability to call others to repentance, to conform their lives to the will of God. If we are only concerned with truth-telling, we lose the ability to lift up the broken, to make the truth that entrusted to us the Gospel – “Good news!”

Paul describes this two-sided mission in this interesting way. “God 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, NLT) A Believer who is filled with the Spirit of God, who is doing and saying exactly God leads him to do, will be – at the very same time – a sweet fragrance and a stench!

I feel like Paul who goes on to ask, “who is adequate for such a task as this?” – don’t you?
How can we fulfill our calling in a way that represents the Lord and His kingdom faithfully and with the proper balance of Love and Truth?

The answer is not found in ourselves or in some technique or even in a program in our church. Here’s what the Scripture says – “We are God’s sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness… We are sure about all this. Christ makes us sure in the very presence of God. We don’t have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do. He makes us worthy to be the servants of his new agreement that comes from the Holy Spirit and not from a written Law. After all, the Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.” (2 Corinthians 2:17; 3:4-6, CEV) We are Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with a message of reconciliation as we invite others to receive God’s grace. We are called to comfort and confront. How can we do it well and in a way that honors Jesus? By staying in a place of humble relationship with our God, where we are filled with the Spirit, our own agenda replaced with God’s will. When we live in that place near to the heart of God, He will lead us and help us. Then, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV)

May God give you a heart of compassion that offers comfort in Jesus’ name, as well as the courage to stand for the Truth, confronting those who err so that they will find the Way to Life everlasting.

Father, I thank you for making me Your representative in this world.
I confess my sense of inadequacy,
my fear that my words and actions will reflect poorly on Jesus.

Holy Spirit, fill me with wisdom today. Let me see past the obvious.
Protect me from judging others out of my own prejudice.
Let me love in a way that comforts and confronts.

Make me gentle and fearless, ready to be a fragrance and a stench.
Let the beauty and truth of Jesus Christ be seen in me.
In the name of Jesus, I ask these things. Yes, and Amen!

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