It became the anthem for the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco—Scott McKenzie’s song, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” And the first verse became a clarion call to young people all across the United States:
“If you’re going to San Francisco,
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco,
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”
Wearing “flowers in your hair” was a reference to the term “flower power” that was coined by the “Beat Generation” poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965. Ginsberg was an active opponent of the Vietnam War and advocate of a peaceful form of anti-war demonstrations where flowers were a symbol of gentle, peaceful resistance.
As the chaotic summer of 1967 wound down, the psychedelic movement wound up. “Flower power” became emblematic of the fragrances of the revolution. Their aroma wasn’t as strong as the incense and drugs being burned, but they remained representative of the movement.
The Power of Aroma
There is a certain aroma in the air on a summer night in your neighborhood that makes your mouth water—the smell of someone cooking meat on a grill. The smell of burning fat is a powerful aroma! When the priests in the Old Testament offered up animals as sacrifices, they were said to produce a “sweet aroma before the Lord” (Exodus 29:25; Leviticus 1:13; 17:6). It was “sweet” because it was symbolic of the removal of sin that was an offense to God. Even grain offerings, not particularly aromatic when burned, were said to produce a “sweet aroma” to God (Leviticus 23:13).
Guess what would happen to those sweet aromas if they were offered illegitimately by carnal priests? “I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas,” God said (Leviticus 26:31). Same fire, same flesh, same grain, same resulting aromas. But they would no longer please the Lord because of how they were produced.
The People as Aroma
When God ultimately rejected the sacrifices of His sinful people and sent them into captivity, He introduced a new aroma through the prophet Ezekiel. The people themselves would become a pleasing fragrance to Him! “I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered” (Ezekiel 20:41).
Instead of the aroma of sacrificial animals, God wanted to be pleased by the sweet-smelling aroma of people living sacrificially for Him. It is when our lives become a “living sacrifice” for Christ that we become a fragrance and aroma pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).
First, Christ gave Himself as “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). Then, those who belong to Christ—who become living sacrifices for His sake—also become a sweet fragrance to Him:
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in 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” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
How do we become the fragrance of Christ? Because it was His sacrifice that was an aroma pleasing to God, when we live the same kind of sacrificial life, we give off the same aroma that pleases God. For example, when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, it was the sacrificial gifts to Paul from the church in Philippi that gave off the aroma of Christ:
“I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet- smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
The Presence of Aroma
There is only one aroma that leads to life. And that is the sweet-smelling aroma of the Lamb of God who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God has called every Christian, every captive of Christ, to live the same sacrificial life He did—to be a fragrant aroma of the sacrificial love of God.
If you have not yet savored the sweetness of Christ’s sacrifice for you, do so today by putting your faith in Him. Then join with those who know Christ already by releasing that fragrance—His fragrance—in the world.
The fragrance of flower power may have died with the sixties and seventies, but the fragrance of Christ lives forever.
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.