We don’t need any special training to detect a nasty smell! We can easily distinguish between the smell of the skunk, the putrefying smell of rotten food, or the stench of a dead animal lying on the side of the road. However, it’s easy to miss the stench of sin when the physical whiff of decay is not evident.
One Black Friday, many years ago, our family volunteered at an area rescue mission. As we stepped into the room filled with men emaciated by alcohol and drug abuse, women broken from lives of promiscuity and abuse, and little children with eyes void of laughter, the stench was almost overwhelming, and not just in the physical sense. The smell of death – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – permeated the room.
The prophet Isaiah describes God’s own rebellious, sinful people, as rotten – like the smell of a rotten egg! The nation of Israel was unconscious of how filthy they had become, yet “the expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom…Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction (rot).” (3:9, 24, NASB)
As the book of Isaiah comes to an end, God describes the acrid odor, “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots…These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day” (65:2-5, NASB).
Those dear ones who have a family member who has chosen addiction or crime or promiscuity know what sin smells like. The odor of sin wafts through the room like a rotten egg or burning sulfur from a chemistry lab. These parents and spouses and siblings know the aroma of death! God knows that same stinking smell. He understands the sick, nauseous feeling that comes as their beloved turns away from good to evil, toward sin and destruction, rejecting Jesus and the beautiful life He offers them.
As I prayed this morning for those with wayward, addicted, or rebellious family members, I jotted down names of people in my realm of influence who continually breathe in the smoke of spiritual sickness and death because of the sinful choices of the ones they love most. I listed the first names of individuals from at least thirty-five families. Some are the children of faithful pastors and Christian leaders. Most are from traditional families where children were loved, nurtured, taken to church, and taught to love the Lord and seek wisdom. Some are spouses that have claimed to belong to Christ, yet they have walked away from Jesus.
There are only two choices in life, stinking sin that leads to death (James 1:15) or the beautiful aroma “of Christ to God” (II Cor. 2: 15). Every individual must choose to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us…an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2) or to walk in the onerous odor of “death unto death” (II Cor. 2:15). As you pray for your child, spouse, sibling, or friend, your love will exude an aroma like the sweetest, most expensive perfume. Your prayers will rise like incense before the Lord and He will hold them as a precious bottle of perfume forever. Your faith will produce that sweet smell of Christ needed to draw your loved one from the stinky-ness of sin and point them the sweet fragrance of Jesus. Keep spraying on the perfume!
“Thanks be to God, who always leads us in 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 those who are perishing” (II Cor. 2:14-15)
Kim Olachea has been a pastor’s wife for 35 years. In 2017, she launched a new ministry for pastor’s wives, Pastor’s Wives, EveryDay Lives, and is the founder of ProverbWise. Kim and her husband, Joe, live in Medford, NJ, and have five adult children and seven grandchildren.