This morning, a story buried deep within my memory surfaced. It took place almost 40 years ago when I worked as a police detective. I was handed the lead on a homicide investigation. Attached to the investigation was a reporter from the Eugene-Register Guard newspaper in Eugene, Oregon. The reporter was assigned to write a multi-page article on the murder.
The crime had taken place in a run down apartment located on the lowest and saddest rung of social strata. Soon after the patrol units had secured the scene, I arrived along with other detectives to have our first look. Murder scenes are grisly but even more impactful, is the lifeless stare of the victim as you walk around their remains trying to piece together what happened. It felt like the victim was watching us with the blank eyes of death as we conducted our investigation.
The reporter met me at the scene. I instructed him where to step and what not to touch. I gave him one final instruction. I said, “Record the smells.” He looked at me a bit confused but would later come to understand what I meant.
The apartment had an odor that was a combination of body waste, sweat, stale cigarette smoke, rotting foods and the blood of the victim. As the reporter walked into the apartment the smells overwhelmed his sensory perception. Later, he would write his article and part of the title was something like, “The Smell of Murder.” Later that night when I wrapped up my investigation and finally booked the suspect, I returned home. When I walked in the door, I smelled the sweet fragrance of a home filled with love, honor, and forgiveness. Before I got into bed after being up for almost an entire day, I took a shower to wash away the stench of death that followed me home.
The results of sin and human failure are strong forces that can produce a smell that will actually invade the physical realm like it did at the murder scene. There are also spiritual smells – the kind of smell that remains hidden until revealed. These indicators do not manifest through our natural sensory perception, they are revealed by the Spirit. I have been around the spirit of mammon and “smelled” the greed before I knew it was present. Lust does the same thing and so does hatred. Each one has a trigger that alerts me to its presence. These indicators always tell me Death is afoot. Death is the by-product of all forms of sin.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been assigned as a spiritual detective of sorts. Many believers walk through life knowing something doesn’t smell right, but don’t take their questioning any further. You need to know why things don’t smell right because in those indicators of darkness a work of God is waiting to be released and you need to know what to release. As you walk through your day ask God to help you discover where hell is at work so you can interrupt that work of darkness with the wisdom and spiritual insight of the Spirit. When you are finished with your investigation the stench of death will be replaced with the fragrance of Christ.