The Power of Smell

As we continue to consider “What characterizes our movement?” from The Navigators Vision Statement, we come to another characteristic: “fragrant with humility and the aroma of Christ.”
At one Nav Neighbors Leadership Initiative event, we were challenged to pay attention to advertising. What was the message? How were they communicating the message? Did they go for the head or for the heart? What kind of vibe did the advertisers seek to create?
Since we were in Minneapolis, Iris and I decided to go to the world-famous Mall of America to walk around and make note of the messages that were being sent. We learned many lessons, but one in particular surprised us: the power of smell. Everywhere we walked, our nostrils were being tempted with wonderful scents. Candles, perfumes, flowers, cinnamon rolls, baking cookies, and brewing coffee all delighted us and evoked powerful emotions. We were pulled in without even engaging our other senses.
Now consider this additional characteristic of the gospel movement that our vision sees: people who are fragrant both with humility and with the aroma of Christ. They are like Jesus. They live among the people in their neighborhoods as Jesus lived among the people in His neighborhood. Jesus practiced vulnerability, humility, and compassion. Along with His words, there was a certain “something” about the aroma that He put out. It caused people to be amazed. Read the following verses with this in mind: 

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12, NASB).
. . . All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5, NASB).
Hugh Halter, co-author of The Tangible Kingdom, once said, “Jesus does not need any more arrogant soul-winners who go out to make more arrogant soul-winners. Jesus wants us to point people to who He really was—a man of humility and love—then allow that image to change them in whatever way God wants.”
We want to help people follow Christ and be among those who don’t know Him. As people spend time with Jesus and as they spend time with people, they will manifest this humble aroma of Christ.
Let me close with the Apostle Paul’s inspired words, which you may already have been thinking as you’ve read this article:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
—2 Corinthians 2:14–17, NASB
Indeed, may this be true of us in our personal lives and as we seek to see the influence of the power of smell in our relational spheres.
For Your Consideration:
  • Think about someone you know who demonstrates godly humility. How do they express that humility—in actions and reactions, speech, and other ways?
  • How do we grow in humility?
  • What other characteristics do you think give off the aroma of Christ?

Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or learn more about his ministry, click here.

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction and continues with Living from the Scriptures.