JUNE 29, 2016
Did you hear about the two hunters out in the woods? One of them suddenly fell to the ground of a heart attack. His friend frantically tried to revive him but to no avail. He simply wasn’t breathing or moving.
The hunter got on his cell phone and called 911.
“My friend is dead! What can I do?”
“Just take it easy, sir. We can help. That’s what we’re here for. First, let’s make sure he’s dead…”
Then there was a long silence followed by the sound of a gunshot.
“Okay,” said the man to the 911 operator, “now what?”
He may have been dead…but now he was “deader.”
That reminded me of what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much the son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).
A friend of mine recently told me he had stopped going to church. “I suppose I’m still a Christian,” he said, “but I went to Christ because I felt so ashamed and condemned. When I go to church, I feel even more condemned and ashamed than I did before I met Christ.” My friend was saying he had moved from dead to “deader.”
John wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life…” (1 John 3:14). And Paul cried out, “O Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
So let’s talk about death. There are four readily apparent and quite attractive things about death:
1. Dead people don’t ever make mistakes.
2. Dead people don’t ever sin.
3. Dead people don’t have to struggle anymore.
4. Dead people don’t have to deal with others’ condemnation.
(For the record, while that’s true, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to die just yet.)
The thing is sometimes God’s people smell like death. And sometimes I smell like death too.
It’s the smell of the walking dead. We’re stiff (just like corpses). We hardly ever smile (and when we do, it looks like the fake smile the undertaker puts on the corpse for an open casket). And when we’re around one another it’s like a funeral…when nobody wants to be at a funeral.
It’s the smell of religion and fake holiness. We don’t want to party or even go out to dinner. We aren’t fun, authentic or even normal…because dead people aren’t normal. We all seem so perfect (the corpse is “perfect”). And we’re all so condemning.
We’re in desperate need of grace and freedom.
It’s the smell of Jesus. It’s the smell of life.
Paul wrote, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Of course, nobody is “sufficient for these things.” Those “things” come from Jesus. When you’re around someone who has been around Jesus, there is a smell—not of uptight purity, religiosity, or condemnation—a fragrance, if you will, of life. It’s the smell of someone who is free, accepted, forgiven, and loved without condition. And it’s the smell of someone who is so secure that it’s taken for granted.
Someone once told me about a little girl whose cat died. Her mother, trying to offer comfort, told her daughter that her cat was with God.
“But mommy,” the little girl said, “what would God want with a dead cat?”
Are you a sinner? Do you struggle? Do you blow it…and sometimes blow it really big? Are you afraid and do you have doubts? Are you tired of the fight to maintain your witness?
That’s okay. Lighten up. God loves you anyway.
If you forget that, you’ll start to smell.
And God doesn’t want dead cats or dead Christians.