I grew up on a farm in Ohio with two brothers and no sisters. My wife, Candy, grew up near New York City with three sisters and no brothers. We started dating and quickly discovered cultural differences we needed to overcome.
I introduced Candy to my family’s fields of corn and soybeans, and I gave her a tour of our milking parlor and the chicken house. When we came to the hog barn, she held her nose and muttered, “Oooh, what’s that smell?” (My dad smiled and quipped, “Smells like money to me!”)
On the flipside, when I visited her family in New York, Candy introduced me to some new cultural sensations of my own. Busses spewed out noxious fumes and subway stations emitted an unpleasant stench. Holding my nose, I muttered sarcastically, “Oooh, what’s that smell?”
Here’s a little life lesson I have learned along the way: No matter where you live, something stinks.
And here’s a more important lesson: If you look for it, no matter where you live, you can find something that smells good, too.
Over time, Candy came to understand and enjoy the blessings of country life, like the fragrance of new-mown hay and the inviting aroma of my mom’s homemade blackberry pie cooling on the kitchen counter. And I learned to appreciate the delicious flavor of a New York bagel, and to savor the taste of pizza made by hand in a ristorante run for years by the same Italian family.
The Aroma of Christ
Have you ever learned to like something you never thought you would enjoy? I wonder: Were Isaiah’s readers surprised by the suggestion that it can be delightful to obey God? Isaiah insisted, “If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13, 14).
The Lord intended for the Sabbath to be a delight—a day to rest, worship, and recalibrate body and soul—but many of his people considered Sabbath laws a burden. Perhaps they reasoned, “Sabbath-keeping makes no financial sense. We’ll lose money if we stop working our fields and shut down our businesses one-seventh of the week.” And fasting felt extra burdensome. So instead of serving the Lord with cheerful hearts, the people became self-centered, mean-spirited, and malicious. In the process, they missed the joys of faithful obedience.
God’s “commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). There are unexpected joys to be found in doing the right things for the right reasons. Reach out in kindness to someone you previously overlooked, and you might discover a new friend. Go to church even when you feel like staying away, and you might end up strangely refreshed. Open the Bible though you aren’t particularly in the mood to study, and in the process, you might unearth a scriptural gem.
God wants us “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Followers of Christ ought to be a breath of fresh air. When we serve God with cheerful hearts and pursue justice for others, we’ll experience some surprising delights, and a tense and divided world will catch a pleasant whiff of God’s amazing grace.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.