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A fragrant resolution

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by Amanda Reardon, Captain – 

by Captain Amanda ReardonWe boarded the plane for Canada, all five Reardons. We were separated, three and two. I was with David who, being the youngest, was most likely to have more demands—trips to the lavatory, etc. It was good that we were in the back row, but not so good that he had the window seat. Whoever sat on the aisle was going to find himself occasionally inconvenienced.

We made our way to the back row, and the man in the aisle seat smiled at us as we lumbered past, with crayons flying from my carry-on bag and David composing a song (loudly).

The smile on the face of the man in the aisle seat immediately put me at ease. As soon as I sat down, I realized something more than his smile was radiating from him. This man had a presence that was a mixture of peace and joy. It reminded me of Christ, and I was sure that this man must know Christ personally.

David was really great on the trip. Occasionally he spoke too loudly or bounced a little. The peaceful man looked at him with laughing eyes. He seemed to enjoy David, even as he was working busily on his laptop. He ushered David through gracefully when those trips to the lavatory came about. All the while I wondered how I could find out if this man were indeed a Christian.

My opportunity arrived with the meal. As our sandwiches were placed before us, I said to David (at elevated volume, to be sure the man would hear me): “David, it’s time to pray for our meal.” I hooked him! The stranger turned to me and said with an eastern European accent: “I take it you are a Christian?”

The conversation that followed has profoundly impacted me. My fellow passenger, Peter, was Polish. He is a Bible translator and a pastor, who is opening a home for street dwellers. Peter loves The Salvation Army, though it does not exist in Poland. He owns a set of lapel S’s, which he cherishes. He told me that he longed for the Army to come to Poland, and he challenged me to make it happen. I knew nothing of whom he was when I sat next to him, but I knew he smelled like Christ.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. II Corinthians 2: 15,16

All Christians have the aroma of Christ. With some, it is a faint fragrance, but others—like Peter—seem to be dripping with it, as if bathed in it. To other Christians it is a wonderful smell. To those unbelievers, it is a nasty stench. Vibrant Christians regularly annoy people who don’t love Christ, just as Christ annoyed the religious leaders to the point that they arranged his death. The words from the lips of a vibrant Christian challenge people, making them uncomfortable. Their purity emphasizes the smudginess of others. There are times when their presence brings peace and joy to everyone, and even their harshest critics may secretly admire them for their sense of purpose and conviction. But time after time they will find that they have offended someone with their goodness.

Meeting someone like Peter caused me to wonder again how strong the odor of Christ is on me. I hope the reader will ask himself the same question. Certainly, the aroma doesn’t permeate the air in this country as it has in years past. The church dilutes the smell by becoming more and more like the world. Biblical principles seem to be subjective even within the walls of churches. “Tolerance” has come to mean compromise of what should be absolute. In such a climate, the smell of Christ becomes increasingly offensive because of its unfamiliarity. The Christian who dares to walk around smelling heavily of Christ risks repulsing people around him.

Perhaps the reader finds a great disconnect between the lovely man on the plane and the Christian who offends. Peter was kind and amiable. But as our conversation took shape, he became intense and purposeful. He pierced my soul with his plea to bring the Army to Poland. He simultaneously convicted and encouraged me. It was a meaningful visit with a messenger from God. But I can imagine that too much conversation with him might make a non-believer quite ill at ease.

So here is a New Year’s resolution for you: go offend somebody! Okay, I retract that. But let me propose this resolution: let the aroma of Christ be so strong on you that you are a sweet smell to those who love him, and a strange, foreign scent to those who don’t.

If you smell that way, and I smell that way, maybe eventually the aroma of Christ in the air won’t be so unfamiliar.

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