It's a pique to the proboscis, an assault of the olfactories, a celebration for the sense of smell. It all depends on your perspective.
For the first time visitor, a humid and overcast Charleston, South Carolina can be quite shocking. The air is thick with an unpleasant, but oh so important, stench. The source is a local paper mill that employs hundreds and pumps millions into the local economy. I've known that aroma for close to 60 years. I remember the first time very well. We had come to Charleston to visit my grandmother. I used a more common word to ask my father if he was flatulent. After the laughter stopped, my mother explained that the odor came from the paper mill. Thirty-five years later, I was pastor of a church in the heart of North Charleston. I remember a conversation with a 30 year Westvaco employee. "It smells like dirty diapers," I said. "Well, it smells like money to me," he responded. The difference was perspective.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life . . ." Taken in context, Paul is writing here about those whose witness and testimonies are motivated by a sense of calling. Those who speak before God with sincerity, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ as we go. BUT . . .
It's all a matter of perspective. When a follower of Jesus stands firmly on the principles of God's word, some will respect it and some will not. When a follower of Jesus speaks out boldly, some will respond positively and some will not. When a follower of Jesus votes values over politics, some will understand and some will not. When a follower of Jesus chooses citizenship in heaven over earthly culture, some will embrace him and some will not. To some, these bold followers of Jesus will be the fragrance of life, but to others, the smell of death.
When you choose to live out your faith publicly, it will affect every part of your life. But not everyone will like you and that's OK! In John 15, Jesus told His disciples, "IF the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That's why the world hates you." Then, in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed, "I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world."
So be bold with your testimony, stand firm in your faith, vote you values, be a citizen of heaven first and foremost, and do not be ashamed or afraid. To God the Father, you will be the aroma of Christ. To some, you will be the fragrance of life and to others, the smell of death. IF there are those who hate you for it, just remember that you are in very good company (John 15:18). And remember that Jesus Himself has prayed for you (John 17:14-19).
I can imagine the seraphim surrounding the throne of God asking, "What's that smell?" And the Father replies, "That's the sweetest aroma in heaven or on earth. It's the fragrance of obedience and sacrifice. It's fragrance of life. It's my child!!" And remember, God's perspective is the ONLY one that counts!