The Perfume Counter by Larry W Peebles December 1, 2017 17.46
Why is the perfume counter located near the entrance of the department store? The marketing concept is to change the atmosphere and to create a sense of arrival for the shopper immediately upon entering the store. Not only is the perfume counter an aromatic experience, it is also a visual experience thanks to the lighting, colors and images on display. It announces a fresh start for the cautious weary shopper. Indeed the message is that the whole store is something special that should not be missed. More subtly, the diffusing of the perfume smell activates the saliva gland in the shopper, and the salivating causes the shopper to relax and drop their guard. They become more open to suggestion and impulse buying, and less resistant to the price.
The idea of the perfume counter located near the entrance is credited to a retailer named Selfridge around 1910. He wanted to set the tone for the shopper immediately upon entering his store. He wanted the whole shopping experience in his store to be pleasant, and he had the idea to start with the pleasant smell of perfume. His idea was also a necessity. Frankly, he needed to cover the smell of the horse manure in the streets, and he wanted it stopped right at his front door. The new approach was a huge success, and is now the norm for a department store
Not every shopper would agree. Some perfume smells better than others, depending on personal preference. Some smells might even be offensive. With a variety of perfumes offered and sampled at the counter, the scents can clash. Some shoppers are outright allergic to the fragrances in the air. At various shopping seasons, the perfume brands become more aggressive in their marketing, and a virtual gauntlet of salespeople at the perfume counter will offer to spray, swipe, or otherwise mark the shopper with their scent. The very same perfume that was intended to start a pleasant, aromatic shopping experience may then have the opposite effect. Shoppers entering the store may immediately cut to the right or the left to avoid the perfume counter.
Paul says something similar happens when a believer presents the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbeliever. In 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16, he writes- “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us to triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
For the believer, the way we live our lives, the example we set, and the things we say when presenting the Gospel is the very “fragrance of Christ”, according to Paul, “diffused…in every place.” To some, it is the fragrance of life. To others, it is the fragrance of death, like the horse manure in the streets outside Selfridge’s store. The believer carries this fragrance whether they intend to or not. Paul goes on to say in verse 17 that we must be consistent and honest in the message of Jesus, because “of sincerity…we speak in the sight of God.”
Assuming we are sincere, consistent and honest in expressing our faith and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, how can the same fragrance have the widely different effect? We have some obligation to adapt the message to the audience, so long as we do not compromise the message. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22- “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” He knew he should do everything and become anything in order to present Jesus to the lost and dying world. He also knew, that despite his efforts, not all would be saved. Some would be saved, but some would find the fragrance of Christ offensive, and would reject it. Today, the believer can only do the best job possible when presenting the message of Jesus, be willing to reasonably adapt to the audience without compromising the message, and then rely on the Holy Spirit to convince, convict, and change the heart. The outcome is then dependent on the individual(s) to whom the message is directed.
Another example of this comes from the Old Testament prophesies. David wrote in Psalm 118:22- “The stone [Jesus] which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”, and Isaiah 8:14 says- “He [Jesus] will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” [Inserts mine.] How can the same stone be both rejected and yet a cornerstone? How can it be a sanctuary yet a stumbling stone of offense?
There is no lukewarm reaction to Jesus. There is no middle ground for a relationship. Knowing and following Him is an “all or none” proposition. He is not someone to tolerate and put on the back shelf until needed. When the crisis in our lives comes, as it surely will, Jesus is not just our sanctuary, or the person we run to for help. He must already be our cornerstone. He must already be the very cornerstone on which our lives are constructed. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30- “Whoever is not with me is against me.” There is no neutral zone.
There are a number of places in the Bible where Jesus, the cornerstone, is referred to as “The Rock.” When studying the story of David and Goliath, I felt I heard the Lord say David did not kill Goliath with a stone or rock (1 Samuel 17, esp. verse 40). He killed Goliath with “The Rock.” When David picked up the “five smooth stones”, he effectually picked up or appropriated the power of “The Rock” to kill Goliath. There is no way to know how long those stones lay there on the ground. They were available to anyone, but most people passed by without ever picking them up. They were largely ignored. Some may have even stumbled on the rocks and cursed them. David chose to pick them up and use them to take on a powerful opponent. He knew he could not defeat Goliath without Jesus, The Rock, whom the Bible calls The Commander of the Armies of The Lord.
Similarly, many will pass through life ignoring Jesus, not making the decision to follow Him. Some will encounter Jesus, but will stumble over Him and curse Him. Some will be offended and consider His fragrance offensive. The wise will choose Jesus, and will be counted among those who are for Him.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2 that Jesus is the precious living stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God. Verses 6-10 tell us- “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief Cornerstone.’, and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him (Jesus) who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
We are called to present the light of Jesus to a dark and fallen world. We must not shrink back even knowing some will reject Him as an offensive odor, and will stumble over Him instead of making Him their cornerstone. We must proclaim His praises. There is no neutral ground. By presenting Jesus, we are presenting the choice described in Deuteronomy 30:19- “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”