My father was a simple man, a child who came of age during the Great Depression. Someone who had experienced privation and was not afraid of hard work to provide for his family during lean times. I remember well the sacrifices that he personally made for my brothers and sisters and me as we were growing up. He found great delight in the simple things of life. I remember one of the last gifts that my sister, Sandy, and I gave to him, it was a car, not a new car, not a fancy car but a car newer and fancier than anything he had ever owned. I’ll never forget that October afternoon in 2003 when we presented him with an eight year old Ford Contour, he sat in it beaming as if he were sitting in a new Lincoln Continental and he drove that car with much joy until his death thirteen months later.
One of the luxuries that my father afforded himself from time to time was to buy a brick of Limburger cheese. Now, I don’t know if any of you have ever been exposed to Limburger cheese. It is a most unique cheese that was developed in 19th century Limburg in what is now Belgium. Limburger cheese has a very unique fragrance that is unforgettable. It’s notorious smell comes from the bacteria that is used to ferment Limburger cheese, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor and foot odor. So strong is that odor that if one puts it in a refrigerator with other foods, everything in that refrigerator will take on the taste and smell of the cheese. Therefore, when my father would buy Limburger cheese and bring it home, my mother would make him wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and then place it inside of a Tupperware container. But sooner or later it had to come out so my father could spread it on bread or crackers and then with a look of sheer delight enjoy his favorite of all cheeses. To him the fragrance and taste of that cheese was the summit of culinary delight, while those around him were holding their nose and running for cover in any room of the house but the kitchen. I have never met anyone who had a neutral opinion of Limburger cheese.
In that same regard, the Apostle Paul when writing to the Corinthians, talked about the fact of how Christians also bear a fragrance as they go to and fro throughout the arenas of their lives. He wrote, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (II Corinthians 2:14-16).
Note here that the fragrance of Limburger cheese that delights one is the same fragrance that gags another. So it is with the fragrance of Christ that permeates that life of a believer. There is really no middle ground. Today we live in a culture that despises the lovely fragrance of Jesus, Paul says that to them the fragrance is a fragrance of death. Smelled anything dead lately? It’s not a great smell, is it? Instead of understanding this truth the church of our day, in many ways, tries to hide or cover up that fragrance in an attempt to be accepted and liked by the world, to show the world that we are imminently open-minded and accepting, not a bunch of narrow-minded Bible thumpers. In many cases, churches have attempted to remove the distasteful parts of the gospel such as sin, and repentance, and hell, and that Jesus said that if we love the world or things of the world we cannot be His disciples.
When Jesus talked about placing the lighted candle under a basket instead of letting its light shine brightly to all who are in the house, this is what He was talking about. He has called us not to hide the fact that we belong to Him, He has called us to let our light shine so that all can see, He has called us to speak the truth, He has called us to stand boldly for Him so that the fragrance of Christ may be realized in all the arenas of our lives. He warns of the danger of our salt losing its saltiness and becoming worthless. The fragrance of Christ in the life of the believer was never meant to illicit a neutral response, either that fragrance will be enjoyed by others and be a blessing to them, or it will repel as the claims of the Savior pierce the sinner’s heart.