Lavern is a big, black woman who stands behind a hot grill making omelettes for resort guests every morning. She doesn’t look like she particularly enjoys it.
A guest at the resort in the Bahamas where she works, I made it a goal to brighten her day. It didn’t take long: with a few kind words and a joyful spirit, I had her smiling by Day 2 of my refreshing, warm winter vacation.
On Day 3, Lavern asked if I was a believer. My first thought was, “How did she know?” but it really shouldn’t have surprised me; I should be asked this question all the time! Paul wrote that the Spirit of God is palpable in the presence of Christ followers: “But thanks be to God, who…uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14–16).
When I responded, “yes,” Lavern reached across the grill, gave me a high five, threw both hands in the air, and shouted, “Praise the Lord!”
This experience led me to consider the importance of my actions in everyday life. If I’ve received the grace and forgiveness of Christ and allowed the Holy Spirit to do a transformative work in my life, then in turn, people should recognize the evidence in the way I live.
When asked his thoughts on Christianity, Mahatma Gandhi famously responded, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Similarly, the Barna research group found “84 percent of young non-Christians say they know a Christian personally, yet only 15 percent say the lifestyles of those believers are noticeably different in a good way.”
This is not good. As disciples – followers – of Jesus Christ, our actions should begin to resemble his more closely as we deepen our relationship with him.
Learning to smell like Jesus
A few years ago, I spent a summer reading through the Gospels focusing solely on Jesus’ interaction with others: who he talks to, what he says to them, and how they respond. I saw that Jesus loves people: not just the people he already knows or those who believe the things he teaches, but he loves and sees value in every person.
I also noticed that people are drawn to him. Again, not just those who already believe his message, but those who are the farthest from it. In these moments, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush or sheepishly share his message of hope, repentance, and the coming of a new kingdom. Rather, he draws people in, showing a new way of life, and boldly and decisively calls them to the difficult task of following him. Some choose to walk away, but although this new way of life means personal sacrifice and a new way of thinking, many people choose to follow him.
This is my story, and if you’re a follower of Christ, it’s your story as well. We’re invited to experience that same love, hope, forgiveness, and unity with God that we read about in the Gospels, but his message was never meant for us to keep to ourselves. Jesus says we are “the light of the world” and calls us to live in such a way that, “others may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).
Every day, we interact with people: family, friends, coworkers, clients, neighbours, strangers in the grocery store. Do they see evidence of Christ in our lives? Does the love of Christ shine through in the way we treat them? Have we experienced God’s love and grace in a way that allows us to share this with others unashamedly through our actions and our words?
My prayer is that I could answer yes to these questions. That I get to know God so intimately that my life would resemble his and that people would be drawn to the beautiful aroma of his presence in my life.
Meeting Lavern was a great reminder of the importance of continuing on the journey of becoming more like Christ.
The Sunday after I met Lavern, she picked me up in a rickety, old church bus, and we were mutually encouraged as we worshipped God together. I am so thankful that Lavern recognized Christ’s presence in my life, and I’m challenged to continue to make his presence known.
—Sabrina Wiens is the youth coordinator for North End Mennonite Brethren Youth (NEMBY), a collaborative youth ministry of Fairview, Grantham, and Scott Street MB churches.