Part 1: Aroma of Christ
Russia’s unmarked troops were successful. They were able to seize the Supreme Council of Crimea and Council of Ministers buildings in Simferopol, Crimea’s administrative capital, this past spring. From this position they could raise the flags of Russian annexation without identifying themselves. It was important for Ukraine, the world, and the people of Crimea itself to believe this was a grass roots movement of the people, for the people. Wearing uniforms without insignias became the means by which Russian forces were able to accomplish the goal of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
There have been mixed reactions to Crimea’s annexation by Russia. Some think it was justified; some think it was illegal and refuse to recognize it. Like most things in life, mixed reactions show us how perspective makes all the difference in how we think and with whom we align ourselves.
God’s kingdom, as it is often referred to, has a sort of Ministry of Internal Affairs too. But it’s there the similarity between the Russian secretariat and the Divine authority ends. For instance, there is no guile exerted by God to manipulate people into an unwilling union with his kingdom; He speaks Truth and people may choose to heed Him or not. He recognizes the rights of autonomy over annexation of the human will; He offers His Son’s redemption as a resolution to our internal conflict, but accepts the intrinsic rights of humans to reject it. Further, He sends His emissaries out in undisguised agency as ministers of His affairs. Or rather, He leads.
Just as Jesus himself generated mixed responses among those with whom He bumped shoulders, generations of His followers elicit the same. The vast majority of this world’s inhabitants have set their teeth against the invitation of Christ offered by the ministers of His gospel; precious few have tasted the news as good. To many the aroma has seemed bitter; those few who have treasured the scent embrace it like a corsage on the heart. He is not bland, this Jesus Christ, whose name is used by some as a profanity and by others in worship.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the aroma of Christ and the influence its ministers can expect to produce. Perhaps his purpose in describing it is twofold: it prepares those who minister the gospel for the mixed and sometimes-violent reaction they will unearth, and secondly, it may serve to prepare those who hear the gospel that there are ramifications to their response. Listen:
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 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. And who is equal to such a task?” (II Cor. 2:14-16).
Incredible, isn’t it? To some it is the smell of death, to others the fragrance of life. The vast expanse between the two is worlds apart – but not insurmountable. A prayer deep from within the heart of one who desires to move from death to life will place itself within the hand of God who will do it. That is what His ministry is designed for. There is no doubt; Christ is not neutral. There is a strong aroma about Him — smell Him. Now is the time to decide if His aroma is to you the smell of death or the fragrance of life.
(Photo Credit: Aleksei Chalyi, Wikimedia Commons)