Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Smelly Christians

One of my favorite moments lately is when I can grab a half an hour or so before going to bed and reading this fascinating biography called Amazing Grace -- the story of William Willbeforce. Many of you have probably seen the film by this title that tells his story. If not, when it comes out on DVD let me urge you to rent it.

Last night I read the part where he was into a 9 year battle against the slave trade in England. The guy just wouldn't give up. The slave trade was much more than a political issue for him -- it was a matter of moral conviction born from his deep faith in Jesus Christ. And ironically, this man who fought for the cessation of this brutal treatment of African slaves was severely criticized and mocked by some of his fellow Parlimentarians. Even the famous author James Boswell wrote a poem making fun of Willberforce.

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul talks about "smelly Christians":

Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume.

His fellow Christians in England, who also became outraged when hearing the truth about the brutality of the slave trade, loved Willberforce and were very supportive. But those who didn't belong to Christ couldn't stand the guy. An aging preacher named John Wesley, who was continually persecuted by many leaders in the Church of England as he preached the gospel, wrote a letter to Willberforce. He warned him that the "devils of hell" will oppose his cause of championing abolition. However, he reminded him that if God be for him, who could be against him?

Reading Willberforce's story, and reflecting on other stories of Christian reformers, remind me that the message of Christ will not be accepted by everyone. In fact many people won't like how we "smell." This is so hard for us because our flesh wants to be popular with others, to be liked.

I just think that let new converts know that not everyone is going to like them for their new relationship with Christ. And isn't this an especially difficult lesson to teach our children? Being a serious follower of Jesus will cause some of their peers to avoid them. To even make fun of them.

But it's worth it. After all, you just can't find many biographies of cynical people, naysayers and critics. It's those who take a bold stance for their convictions that inspires us to do the same. And especially those who courageously go against the grain of this world. They may smell terribly to non-believers, but to God and to us as fellow Christians, their life-giving perfume is so pleasing to our souls.



At 3:14 PM, Blogger Carol Riordan said...

I want to be a smelly Christian, Jim. Thank you for reminding me. It always encourages me to read biographies of those who stood up for what they believe.

Is there any way to sign up for your blog without having to access it from your email? i would like to. Thanks. Carol Ode Riordan

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Neva said...

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about the exact same thing. We all should be Christians identifiable by our "smell".


Still praying for your ministry.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Jim Clark said...


You and Tim definitely have the aroma of Christ -- it is so obvious that His Spirit lives in you guys.

What I do is bookmark blogs that I like to check. So each morning I click on Mozilla Firefox and then click the "down" arrow on the tool bar at the top. Up come all the websites I've been to lately. Does that help?

THAnks Neva, for your prayers. I need them. I need HIM!

When did you post write that post you were referring to?


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Neva said...

It was a post on 12/05/06 and I did not do near as good as job as you did, brother.


At 2:32 PM, Blogger godwhacker said...

It is interesting that you concentrate on Johnny-come-lately Wilberforce but neglect to mention that the Church condoned slavery for hundreds of years (cf. "sons of Ham).

Even Jesus himself accepted slavery as part of the status quo and never challenged it. (reference: Ruth Green "The God of Galillee - Everything You Know About God Is Wrong)


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