The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Go tell it, smell it

The aroma of good news comes through you

I remember feeling defensive, frustrated and scared. I didn't know what to say or how to convince her to believe in God.

At that time I misunderstood what sharing your faith really means. I thought it was about convincing someone to believe, when it's really about letting your life speak. I thought it required intellectual debate, when in reality sharing faith is about sharing life with someone. What I had to say was important. But who I was as a person mattered more.

Psychologist Les Parrott often tells parents that "who you are matters more than what you do." The same holds true for us as Christians — as we find ways to share our faith, who we are matters even more than what we say.

You stink in a good way
"This car smells like you," Nathan said as he sat down in my passenger seat. I wasn't sure if this was a compliment or a criticism.

"It does?" I asked.

"Yep. It just has a unique smell," he said.

It was kind of like someone saying, "That was interesting." It's all in the vocal inflection.

Could he have meant that I smell like a Christian? The apostle Paul wrote that as God's people "we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15). Our unique scent reminds people of God. When ancient church theologian Origen reflected on this verse, he encouraged Christians to "put an altar of incense in your innermost heart. Be a sweet aroma of Christ."

Researchers from the University of Southern Brittany in France recently tested the theory that smells influence altruistic behavior. They asked four volunteers to stand outside a bakery and another four to stand outside a clothing store. The volunteers were told to rummage in their bags before dropping a glove, handkerchief or packet of tissues in front of passers-by.

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February issue


Embracing diversity