Perhaps you’ve seen the classic image from movies of a bygone era: some lonely guy — perhaps a soldier, serving in a faraway land — receives a letter from his girl. But not only does it carry her thoughts; it carries her scent. The letter has been spritzed with her perfume; and as a result, it transports her presence across the miles so that it can provide a memory of past joy, the evidence of present faithfulness, and the promise of future reunion.
In today’s New Testament lesson (2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6), the Apostle Paul talks about “perfumed letters” of a sort. The letters are the people with whom he ministers: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (3:2-3) But the perfume is all Jesus: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2:15-16)
If we are, indeed, a “letter from Christ,” what kind of “aroma” are we diffusing? Are we dispersing that unique combination of power that comes through weakness, greatness that comes through servanthood, and holiness that doesn’t retreat from sin but transforms it through the subtle chemistry of grace? Granted, this particular perfume won’t appeal to everyone: to the one, it is an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. But to all who catch the “captivating scent” of our Christ-surrendered lives, may we bring the memory of God’s goodness, the evidence of His faithfulness, and the promise of His unfailing love.