2 Corinthians 2
14b Now (God) uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere,
like a sweet perfume.
15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.
But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.
16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
This is Paul writing his second letter to the followers in Corinth.
I think we need to remember what he's saying here.
We need to remember that to people who follow Jesus, their reaction to the Holy Spirit inside of us is to connect with it – they have the same thing going on inside of themselves.
But people who are not following Jesus – especially those who obviously have absolutely no intention of ever doing so – the Holy Spirit inside of us is a constant reminder of who they are & what their lives mean & will mean, & how out of sync they are with God.
Now, I don't think those who don't follow Jesus would quantify their response in that manner.
They might say we give them the creeps, or that we're “holier than thou”, or maybe that we're just judgemental jerks.
And, quite frankly, sometimes we all are those things – none of us act in a kind & Christ-like manner all the time in all situations.
But I think it would be good to remember that those who don't follow Jesus often times react negatively to the Holy Spirit inside of us – and there's nothing we can do about that.
What we CAN do is treat people who don't follow Him with kindness, gentleness, & compassion...
iow, treat them the way Christ followers treated you & me before we finally decided to follow Jesus too!
I think in some segments of American Christian culture we've developed this attitude that everybody should just be glad & happy & hug themselves when our lives basically tell them that they're not exactly on the right path.
That's not the way it works.
The Holy Spirit, simply by being who He is – blindingly holy & infinitely powerful – highlights in VERY obvious ways the sinfulness of those who don't follow Jesus.
I'm sure in some instances non-believers construe what we communicate as a repudiation of who & what they are.
And in some ways, it is a repudiation – but not in the way they feel it is.
We are who we are – new creature in Christ – we can't help it if that makes them uncomfortable – it's the Holy Spirit inside of us that makes them uncomfortable.
Now this doesn't give us license to be jerks or arrogant.
What it should do is challenge us to be gentle & loving to people as they struggle against the power of the Holy Spirit.
Think of how the people who influenced you & me as we struggled toward belief & following Jesus.
If it was for you like it was for me, Christ followers treated me with this infinite love & gentleness as I absorbed what all this following Jesus meant.
And they held me hand as I walked into a acceptance & belief in Jesus.
It was probably similar for you.
And that is perhaps what we should be in our connections with people who don't follow Jesus – kind, loving, compassionate, & gentle...
...because whether they would acknowledge it &/or realize it, the Holy Spirit inside of us makes them VERY uncomfortable.