But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
How often you have heard, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Who cares?” How often have you made that statement to a friend, your spouse or to your children? I certainly have said that to my friends, wife and children more times than I’d like to admit. Sometimes I was right. But other times I was wrong. Whether I was right or wrong depended upon the circumstances.
When I care what someone else thinks, I may be doing so as a way to earn that person’s approval. I may very well be doing it to take my reputation up a few notches in that person’s eyes. That’s pride. In that case, I would have been better off not caring what that person thought about me. I was wrong in seeking to inflate my own self-worth, further fueling my pride and narcissism. I’ve already been accepted by God through Christ’s life, death and resurrection on my behalf, and that’s all the acceptance and validation of my worth that I should need.
There are times, however, when you and I should be concerned about what others think. We should be concerned about what others think when it affects what they think about Christ. This was the Apostle Paul’s approach. In 1 Corinthians 9 he said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake.” Paul said that he made himself a “servant to all.” He cared deeply about those he encountered and desperately worked to lead them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He cared what they thought about Jesus. Paul’s actions were a manifestation of what the Gospel was doing to Him, and that really is the motivator of all our actions.
God’s grace in you is what motivates you to be a servant to all and to care about how your actions magnify Christ and the Gospel. So often we want to jump straight to the imperatives of Scripture: “BE a servant to Christ, “BE a good witness to Jesus.” But when we do so, we often forget that the imperatives of the New Testament are preceded by the indicatives. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (above), Paul points to how God’s grace in us, brought about through faith in the Gospel, provides not only the desire in us to do the imperatives, but it also ensures the results of those imperative efforts. Paul writes, “We ARE the aroma of Christ…”, not “BE the aroma of Christ. Because of the outworking of the Gospel in our lives, we ARE already the aroma of Christ. Paul states that It is because of who we are in Christ that God “always leads us in triumphal procession.” Because of God’s grace at work in us, we will be effective witness to Christ in the world. Sometimes our witness falls on deaf ears, unopened by the grace of God and other times it will, by grace, bring about new life in Christ. Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And the answer is, “we are not.” But by God’s grace we are.
I pray that we will walk boldly in our efforts to influence what others think about Jesus. By God’s grace, may they see in us that pleasing aroma of Christ. Who else, other than God, is sufficient for these things?