Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Perfumed Christ

...in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect... (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
We are called to be witnesses, those that bear testimony to the world concerning Christ Jesus. Sometimes, we stumble over what that testimony should be. On the one hand, we know how important it is to preach Christ, to share the narrative of Christ's life, death and resurrection, because that is what one must believe in order to be saved. We can do so abridged, bulleted, almost creedally, i.e. "Jesus was was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, killed and buried under Pontius Pilate, descended into hell, raised bodily from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven and seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, coming back again one day to judge the quick and the dead." We can even do so insincerely; which, believe it or not, has some value even if it is not likely to produce the best fruit. Regardless, witness Christ we must!

On the other hand, we can bear personal witness, i.e. "I believed on Christ and this is what it has done to me." Generally, this kind of witness finds it's platform in suppostions the world puts forth about us: "they're drunk," "he's crazy," "he's a criminal," "why are you so optimistic?" Personal testimony is likely to go farther, imo, than mere narratives about Christ because it comes with its own evidence in the one bearing the testimony. It's a one-two punch! The only drawback is that there actually has to be more than words coming from the witness. There has to be the evidence of something in the witness that elicits a question.

Ultimately, that something is hope. Not just the garden variety of optimism or even anticipation born of conviction, it has to be something much more than that. What? You may ask. I think the Apostle Paul describes it well in calling it "Christ in you, the hope of glory." As important as signs and wonders are to our witness, they can be the bad fruit of rotten trees. A testimony of Christ borne of a bad spirit does nothing to lift up Christ. What cannot be faked, and what puts off an unmistakable aroma is Christ in you. Folk may act Christian-like, or say Christian things, but there's something about people with Christ in them! It's intriguing, and alluring, and begs a question from the observers around them.

We, however, live in a world of many smells. We exude many ourselves. Therein lies a difficulty and challenge to us. We're in the world but are not to be of it. We're here to bear testimony to the world, but can't get carried away in it. Our witness loses potency and efficacy if what we exude looks, well, normal--no different than anyone else. The call is not to wear a doily on our head and ride around in a horse and buggy, but despite tooling around in a normal conveyance, with non-descript coiffs, to put off the unique aroma of Christ in us. That gets masked by an unholy, earthy musk if our hearts are not set apart to the Lord. The French perfected perfume to cover body odor, but I hate the smelly stuff. An unsanctified heart is a perfume that covers the sweet aroma of Christ.