I eagerly awaited the arrival of my peony blooms this season. The old-fashioned flower bush has some great memories attached to it–just like my lily of the valley plants do. Both are favorites from my childhood. They bloomed in my mother’s flower garden, fragrant and beautiful.
Although peony flowers are lovely to look at in the garden, what I enjoy most about them is that they make great cut flower arrangements. This is what I was looking forward to when I planted 4 bushes in my yard last year and 4 more this spring.
When the weather warmed, the lush green foliage signaled hope ahead as they grew taller and wider.
One spring morning I asked my husband, “Are those buds on the peony bushes?” I ran out the back door, down the stairs toward the plants and yelled back at him, “Wow, we’re going to have peonies this year.” I don’t think that he was as excited as I was but he did crack a smile. I’m sure his smile was mostly because the labor it took to plant them was paying off and he did most of the hard work.
I wasn’t sure if the first summer would produce blooms, but there was the evidence. I was going to have my peonies. I had visions of cut flowers from the bushes being brought inside my home and placed in vases. So when the buds opened up, that’s what I did.
I had forgotten how fragrant the flowers were but once I brought them inside I noticed the familiarity to the sweet scent of roses. I don’t know if different varieties have their own distinct scent but mine smelled like roses. I was pleasantly surprised.
Just as my lily of the valley brought a beautiful fragrance into my home in the spring, my peonies did the same in the summer and again I embraced the reminder of how we are to spread the fragrance of Christ through our own sphere of influence.
Today I’m focusing more on why some may find the scent offensive. Hopefully, the fragrance we’re spreading is one of life and love without judgement but even then others may find it unpleasant. Why? That’s what I’m pondering today.
When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17 that Christ spreads through us everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him he also said that to those perishing it will smell like death.
During the time period of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the Romans (when victorious in battle) would march triumphantly through the streets of the city. The generals would parade their plundered goods and captives in front of spectators. It was their victory march. While they made their triumphal procession, they were accompanied by incense bearers. The strong scent of the burning incense filled the air. For those that were celebrating the victory, it was a sweet aroma but to the captives it was the awful smell of death, because that’s where they were marching toward–their death.
There have been various interpretations from different Bible scholars about Paul’s words to the Corinthians. I’m certainly not a scholar but I do know that Christ secured my victory.
Christ is in me. As I abide in him, he will spread his beautiful fragrance through me.
Salvation is up to God. It’s not up to me. His job is to set the captives free. My job is to spread the fragrance of Christ through my story, through my service, through what I say, through what I don’t say, through my love. And the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13: 13b)
Some people aren’t ready to accept the love of God and maybe the fragrance of Christ is offensive to them, but you and I never know when the fragrance will become a beautiful aroma. So I try not to give up on reaching deep into the reservoir of love that I have received from God and then spreading it through my sphere of influence.
Loving others may look differently depending on the circumstances and the needs. That’s another topic for another post. Maybe we’ll unpack that here someday. Until then, join me in focusing on the fragrance of Christ and what it means. Has it become life for us? How can it become a beautiful aroma through us?
Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014