IN JESUS, WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST
That means some of us are armpits.
Could the following scenario happen to you?
You are eager to serve God. You pray about how to serve Him. You listen to His answer and obey. God directs you to go to your church and volunteer to work in ministry there. You are SO excited to start!
Then you run into a glum-humbug of a woman, and you wonder how she can be a Christian and still be so miserable. You also wonder how you’ll ever survive your commitment to serve alongside her.
Well, it happened to me. Let me tell you the story.
Years ago, I struggled to work alongside a sourpuss church member. Her sullenness was habitual, not circumstantial. Sure, she served unendingly but never with a smile.
I dreaded the times I had to work with this woman, so I began to pray for the strength and insight to deal with her. One day while reading 1 Corinthians 12:12, a light bulb went off in my mind:
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (New Living Translation)
The woman at church was just like me, a member of the Body of Christ.
She just happened to be an armpit.
The notion was a game-changer for me! Suddenly, acceptance came with ease. I finally had a category for a perpetually ill-tempered Christian: an underarm.
Knowing that, I began to take this woman just as she was. When I had to work with her, I just held my nose. Not literally, of course, but I could put up with her B.O. for a few minutes at a time. I didn’t have to let everything she said get to me.
When her odorous perspective did overwhelm me, I simply put a little physical distance between us (by stepping into the hall or taking a break in the bathroom) to allow myself to breathe freely again.
THAT SOLUTION WORKED WELL AS LONG AS MY INTERACTION WITH HER WAS LIMITED
But that didn’t last.
One day, a dear woman with exactly the opposite personality of “Ms. Stinky Pants” asked me to fill in for her during her once-a-week service commitment to the church.
If I said “yes” and chose to sub for her, can you guess who my partner was going to be for the day?
Filling in for the kind-hearted woman meant I would have to spend hours with the bad-tempered one.
(Honestly, I never understood how the sweet-natured woman could stand to regularly work with Smelly Ol’ Sourpuss. How did she put up with the odor?)
At any rate, because I loved the friendly woman so much, I decided to pitch in as her substitute. Knowing that would mean working with the unfriendly woman, I called out to God for help. I prayed for wisdom, and the answer came.
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (New King James Version)
Ok, so Proverbs 16:24 doesn’t say anything about deodorant, but I took the wisdom of the words and I applied it to my armpit situation.
I began to think.
Every single day that I slather deodorant under my arms, I smell better than if I didn’t. Surely, if I applied pleasant words into the afternoon alone in a room with the Queen of Stink, the whole day would smell better.
That was my very simple plan. Go, serve, and speak very pleasant words in the presence of the mean old woman.
I want to be very clear. I detest flattery. And I wasn’t about to sin against God by lying to the woman I had been praying to Him about. At the same time, I didn’t think I could keep up a steady stream of compliments regarding her directly.
So I made a plan to be absolutely sincere when I spoke to her. Each complimentary word I shared would actually be my belief. It just wouldn’t all be about her.
THE AFTERNOON BEGAN WELL ENOUGH
I oohed over our recent church programs. I aahed over the work we were performing that day. I reveled in the accomplishments of our local government.
I anticipated the benefits of nearby road construction. I championed the effort of faraway missionaries. I recounted how great my lunch had been. And praised God for the great weather we had been having.
I spoke well of every subject I could think to speak well of until I couldn’t think of any other subject to speak of at all.
SO I TURNED TO THE BIBLE IN MY MIND
I quoted Scripture. I quoted pieces of hymns inspired by Scripture. I began to praise God from my heart. In fact, I got so carried away with the Good News that I lost track of why I was doing what I was doing in the first place.
Suddenly, my awe of our awe-inspiring God so overtook me, I was stunned into silence.
After several minutes of complete quiet, she spoke to me. It was the first chance she’d had to get a word in. And she did so with a half smile!
“You remind me of (and she said the name of the kind woman who usually worked with her).
She’s always finding the good in things.”
I was blown away.
And overflowing with gratitude.
We worked in amicable silence after that.
I’m grateful for the mental image of Armpit Christians. It increases my patience and kindness. I’m also glad to know that there’s deodorant available to apply in particularly stressful situations.
The same can work for you. As long as you put on the “deodorant” nice and clean (no lying allowed!), you can practice loving people who initially seem impossible to love. You’ll also find yourself less affected by someone else’s bad mood.
SO HOW ABOUT YOU?
The next time you have to work alongside a stinky sourpuss at church, how will you respond?
Limiting your interaction is one thing, but we mustn’t always run away from bad odors and bad attitudes.
God’s Word is filled with beauty. Memorize Scripture passages. And have them at the ready.
Even if you don’t say them out loud, meditating on them will fill you with a sweet fragrance—a fragrance powerful enough to cancel out another person’s perpetually bad smell.