They treated me more as a special visitor than as a member of the family. When I first arrived, they were sober and guarded their language. The difference between us created a divide that made communication challenging. What should we talk about? Joke about? Laugh at?
As our time together progressed, the beer began to flow. And with it, a bit of ease for them, but considerable discomfort for me. I didn’t fit with this family anymore. We held nothing in common. Hearing them repeatedly use the f word hurt my ears. Watching them belt down one bottle of brew after another stung my eyes.
I didn’t like going home. Not even for a short visit. I had changed, but my family remained the same. They didn’t understand the transformation that had occurred in me. I could never go back to the place where I could relate to them. Neither, though, could I permanently cut them off.
Saint Paul heard about the solemn processions of triumph held for emperors or generals in Rome. The honored conqueror rode in his chariot…followed by his soldiers, captive prisoners and the bounty of his victory. The air was heavy with fragrant clouds of incense rising from altars along the road and wafting from censors held by spectators of the procession.
Some of the condemned prisoners were thrown into dungeons or led off to execution. Others were pardoned and set free. There was rejoicing among those who were saved and on their way to deliverance. The lost, about to perish, were in a complete state of mayhem.
But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing– 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
Paul sees himself as an incense bearer in the conqueror’s procession. His prayers, praises, thanksgiving, and teaching were as clouds of incense wafting through the air to reach everyone around him. Paul believed in both the mercy and righteousness of Christ and left the final judgment of all in God’s hands. He would, however, do his work as an incense bearer. He would allow the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God to waft through the work he had been given. He would allow the righteousness of God to be seen working through him.
We are the spectators in the procession, diffusing incense wherever we go. As God’s people, we must first be crushed and burned as incense, but then our censors will diffuse the sweet aroma of the triumph of Christ everywhere. God will be glorified, but those who breathe the perfume will be affected in different ways. Some will reject the message to their ruin. Others will awaken to salvation that ends in eternal life.
I don’t know how God will judge the salvation of the members of my family. I do believe that each of them drew closer to God due to my interactions with them. The holiday season is here and many of us are planning family get togethers. Do you have any challenging relationships to work through? Can you make the love of God known to these people? Can you, by your example, move them one step closer to Christ Jesus this Thanksgiving?