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God’s Sweet Scent

Consider this:

You have a friend or friends that you hear something about and it causes you concern. More than that, it causes you to pray for them and to seek God in your response. You were planning a visit but after prayer, you decide to write a letter first – to address the problem in advance.

Why would God ask you to do that? Maybe for your good and for the good of your friend(s). Sometimes, situations take time to resolve. Errors in behavior are not easily corrected because most of the time there is a ripple effect which must be stopped in order to get back on track.

Your letter addresses the news you heard and gives honest, loving advice as to how to correct the situation. If you had delivered it in person, you would have heard the reaction – no one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to confront others with the truth when they know it will not be received well.

Sometimes a letter, from the heart after prayer, is the way to address a situation – to prepare both the writer and the receiver for the next encounter. Maybe, a letter prepares the way for the victory that is God’s and God’s alone.

Now consider these Words breathed forth from God:

That’s why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me?

3-4 That was my reason for writing a letter instead of coming—so I wouldn’t have to spend a miserable time disappointing the very friends I had looked forward to cheering me up. I was convinced at the time I wrote it that what was best for me was also best for you. As it turned out, there was pain enough just in writing that letter, more tears than ink on the parchment. But I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you!

5-8 Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love.

9-11 The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don’t think I’m carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I’m joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways!

12-14 When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it. But when I didn’t find Titus waiting for me with news of your condition, I couldn’t relax. Worried about you, I left and came on to Macedonia province looking for Titus and a reassuring word on you. And I got it, thank God!

14-16 In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

16-17 This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can. 2 Corinthians 2 MSG*

Remember . . . we are called to seek God and speak His truth in love and in the way we are led by the Holy Spirit – it could be by a letter, a visit, a phone call, email, etc. but whatever way it is, when we are called, we need to ask God for direction and follow it. When we do, “we give off a sweet scent rising to God which is recognized by those on the way of salvation – an aroma redolent (pleasingly fragrant) with life.” 

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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