Everybody loves a parade
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
This is one of the most abrupt turnarounds in all of scripture. One minute, Paul is telling us how he blew a God-given opportunity for the gospel, and the next minute, he is thanking God for always leading him in a victory celebration. “Always” would mean that this moment was no exception. It’s almost as if one thing has nothing to do with the other. Well, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t.
Three things he says are always happening with us, regardless.
- We are being led.
- Our lives are constantly on display.
- We have an impact wherever we go.
None of these things appear to take any effort on our part. They are things that God is using us for. He even calls us “captives,” which would indicate there’s nothing we can do about this; it’s going to happen whether we like it or not.
We are being led. There are no accidents in our life with God. He is using everything — and I mean everything — because in this context, he uses a mistake. Call it what you will — a failure, a missed opportunity, a blown save — it wasn’t good, but God is turning it into something good. This is the first really good news of the new covenant: God is making sense of our lives whether we see it or not.
Our lives are constantly on display. Ever been in a parade? I used to be in the high school band. In my senior year, I was the drum major. During football season, we were focused on the games, then we had concert season, and in the spring was parade season. We would march in three or four local parades every year. I am well aware of the feeling of being the center of attention. You are marching down the center of the street, which has been relieved of its normal function of carrying traffic, and there are crowds of people on either side of the street cheering you on. People love a parade, from the little neighborhood walk-alongs to the big televised events, size and scope just don’t seem to matter.
The one Paul is referring to here is a victory celebration common during the time of the Roman Empire when the troops would come home after conquering another province with the captives in chains, bringing up the rear. That’s where Paul puts us: captives in a victory celebration. Like it or not, we clatter along at the back of the parade. Of course, who wouldn’t want to be chained to the purposes of God? The point is: we are on display, and what we display is the fragrance associated with knowing God.
We have an impact wherever we go. And the fragrance has an impact. It’s not something we put on, it’s not an impression we are trying to make, it’s the unconscious result in our lives of simply knowing and loving God. We wear the fragrance of Christ whoever we are, wherever we go, whatever is happening to us.
Remember, all three of these things are going on whether we know it or not — whether we blow it or not. So we might as well get with the program. That’s what Paul did. He gave thanks for what looked like a setback, but what turned out to be a big step forward for his life and ministry — a step we are all benefitting from today, I might add, as we still are learning from his example.
Day 2 Challenge: How can Paul reverse his position so quickly? Nothing is going well for Paul, yet at the same time he is throwing a New York ticker tape parade as if the war had just been won.
- Tell us today about something that caused you to rejoice in the middle of everything going wrong.
- How is He doing this today through your life? Can you describe how you are being used to “spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”?