The Best Version of Ourselves

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You never know what you might hear when the best man proposes a toast at a wedding reception.
Everything depends, of course, on the relationship between the best man and the groom.  Not to mention whether he’s already had a few drinks too many.  And whether he’s comfortable as a public speaker, capable of “landing the plane” before everyone gets restless.  Guests may hear fond memories, gentle ribbing, old jokes, and stories that have never been told – and perhaps should remain untold. 
Every now and then there are moments of raw honesty, which prompt those in attendance to hold their collective breath. 
Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, remembers such an occasion.  The best man was the groom’s brother.  He stood, turned to his brother, and said, “It’s no secret to anyone here that I have never liked you.” 
Now that’s an interesting way to begin a toast.
“All of our lives we have fought and argued and been like oil and water.  We are still very different in many ways.  But I have grown to love the person you have become since the day you met her.”  And here he looked straight at the bride.  “The more you are with her, the more I am drawn to you.  The more you are with her, the more I see in you the best version of yourself.”
As Sauls reflected on this unusual moment, he realized it provided a profound picture of how being with Jesus has the power to change us.
It can’t be denied that outsiders have grounds for believing that church people who hang out with other church people sometimes become more angry, rigid, and even hateful.  But there’s a discernible difference when people choose to spend more time with Jesus.  The more we are with him, the more people will experience the best version of ourselves. 
Haltingly but persistently, hypocrites begin to be more authentic.  Liars begin to value the truth.  Judgmental people begin to exhibit softer hearts.  Arrogant people become more approachable.  Gruff people gradually try on kindness.  Selfish people start to learn what it means to be servants. 
Author Rita Snowden remembers sitting in a café late one afternoon in a small village near Dover, England.
As she was sipping her tea, she was suddenly overwhelmed by an astonishing fragrance.  It was quite simply one of the most pleasant aromas she had ever smelled.
“Where is that coming from?” she asked her server.  He explained that it was being carried by the workers from a nearby perfume factory.  They had finished their shift and were walking down the street, on their way home.  Their clothing was permeated by the fragrances they had been working on all day.
Everywhere we go, we carry around the aroma of who we truly are and what we genuinely believe.
During the days of the Roman Empire, conquering troops would parade through Rome, leading the prisoners they had captured. Conquerors and prisoners alike walked across flower petals strewn on the streets by the crowds.  The resulting fragrance was a reminder to everyone present of the strength and glory of Rome.
The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15: “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. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved…”  Those who spend time with Jesus remind others of the strength and glory of God.
May those we meet today catch a scent of something beautiful, humble, and hopeful in our lives.
And that others would be glad of our presence.  And sorry to see us go. 
And ultimately come to realize that because we’ve been with him, we’re slowly becoming the best version of ourselves.