Our Wednesday night women’s fellowship group has been studying the book of Ruth this fall. Last week we delved into chapter three, which is where, at her Mother-in-Law Naomi’s instruction, Ruth goes to the threshing floor and presents herself to Boaz (Mr. Wonderful).
The Bible describes Ruth’s preparations for this momentous event in just a few, short words: “…bathe and anoint yourself, then put on your best attire…” (Ruth 3:3).
As we all sidetracked into an animated discussion of what “bathe and anoint yourself” encompassed, one lady mentioned that anointing would have, in this sense, been like pouring oil over your head or covering yourself with the finest perfume. That got me thinking back to about thirteen years ago when I visited Egypt and in Cairo toured a shop that made perfumes from essential oils. I thought about how lovely they smelled, and how just a single drop was quite strong and lasted quite a long while. (I was a dutiful tourist and bought quite a bit, as well as several of the beautiful little blown-glass bottles used to store and dispense the oil).
So anyway, all the ladies were talking about how beautifully scented Ruth was, and I was thinking, “Oh, great! Not only does she have to sneak out onto the threshing floor, in the middle of the night, in the dark, and find Boaz without waking up all the other men, but she’s wafting this beautiful aroma through the air, announcing her presence!” Suddenly, Ruth’s task of slipping in unnoticed seemed a lot more difficult!
But then I got to thinking, what’s our aroma like as Christians? As soon as we self-identify as a Christian, people begin to look at us differently. They check us out. They watch us. They observe our behavior, words, actions, and even intentions. They want to see if we’ve really got something different than what the rest of the world has, or if we’re just a lot of talk, blowing hot air. I don’t know if any other religion or belief system’s adherents are scrutinized this closely or not, but Christians absolutely are!
But then, what about those that keep their Christianity hidden? Those that, for whatever reason (and they may have very good reasons) keep their faith to themselves? Do people watch them? Do they have an aroma?
I would like to propose that, if we’re a Christian, we have an aroma, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And with every interaction we have with another human being, we dispense some of that aroma, be it for good or bad. As we are gradually remade into the image of Christ, and begin to produce less of the world, and instead begin to bear and manifest the fruits of the Spirit, we are giving off that aroma of Christ’s love to all of those around us. The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galations 5:22-23) We are not these things through our own effort, though some of us may naturally display one or more of them in varying degree; but as God works in us and through us we begin to manifest them more fully as our lives are changed from the inside out.
We can be an excellent testimony with our aromas, which are the fruit of the Spirit. And the hope would be that the world would automatically know us by our aromas, whether we self-identify as Christians or not.