Chapter 57: From Aroma to Persuasion
Display of Christian character is of vital importance for every missionary, and learning your people group’s language and culture shows your respect for them. In this learning process new missionaries should become ‘like children’, as Jesus said; it helps a missionary, when he can laugh about himself, instead of being insulted. Being an ‘aroma of Christ’ is an indispensable missionary quality, but we also need to learn how to persuade people of the truth of the gospel.
But thanks be to God, who … through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life (2 Cor. 2:14-16)
Traveling through many countries, Paul met people groups whose language he knew and others whose tongue was unknown to him. When he ministered in Athens he had the big advantage of knowing Greek language, culture, history, religion and literature. It helped him to address the Greeks at an academic level. There may have been reasons for his limited success in Athens, but it was not his lack of knowing the language and culture.
Yet, what did he do when he came through areas where he did not know the language? He did not give us direct advice, but there are some things that can help us to guess his approach. One is his encouragement to ‘be an aroma of Christ’. He wants us to ‘smell like Christ’, even when we cannot yet ‘talk about Christ’. We can radiate His character, even if we don’t master their language yet.