The definition of determinism is that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Christian determinism and Calvinist schools of thought would say that the external cause is God. While I disagree with some of the tenets of this philosophy, I will have to admit that I have felt pulled against my will at times in life. More specifically, I feel that I have been predestined to stop at every bakery that crosses my path. I feel pulled into them. It can’t be healthy, but who can fight predestination?
One of the things I love about bakeries is that they sell themselves. All you have to do is walk in and you are engaged. The incredible smell of fresh baked breads and pastries pulls you forward, inviting you to have a closer look. It’s a hard call to resist.
Imagine then, how absurd it would be for the baker to be standing outside of his shop handing out pamphlets about the 5 laws of quality scones. What would it be like if the baker lectured you concerning the proper temperatures needed to make cookies both crispy and chewy at the same time? What if the baker said that you couldn’t enter his bakery until you fully understood the proper ratio of flour to eggs for various sizes of sponge cake? It wouldn’t be very enticing. In fact, it would conceal the beauty of the product being offered.
Yet, that is what many of us have been taught to do as Christians. We dive into the minutia of how to interpret the Bible. We talk about how the end of time will end. We haggle over our stances on marriage, politics, and a thousand other things. Often, we make others feel that they need to fully understand and agree with us to have a place in our lives.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Our lives, words, and actions are to be inviting to those around us, an aroma that awakens them to something good that they weren’t expecting. The way we relate to others shouldn’t be abrasive and demanding but marked with love and grace. While it’s good for the baker to understand the intricacies of his profession, it is not necessary to fully understand all the ingredients that come together to make a doughnut to be able to enjoy it. Demanding intellectual assent to a set of doctrines from people before they have had the opportunity to enjoy God is awkward and off-putting. It’s hard to love facts about God until you’ve loved God. Love, forgiveness, and mercy are enticing aromas. They are not a strategy to reach others, just a natural consequence of being loved by God. When we love others authentically with no agenda, when we forgive those who have wronged us rather than seeking to get even, our lives become a scent of something other-worldly, and it’s more powerful that than a thousand well placed words.