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The town I grew up in had a lot of Italian people. I would often spend the night at a friend’s house so I could go to Mass with them in the morning and then enjoy a feast at their grandmother’s after church. I can remember one such occurrence when, walking up to the sidewalk I was kicked in the nostrils by an overwhelming and powerful smell. To my untrained adolescent nose this was a strange smell. Upon further research I found out that it was, as you might expect, garlic. Garlic is the (glorious) staple ingredient in Italian food. It is in everything. If you had a bowl of cereal there it would probably taste like garlic. If you visited with some other friends after dinner, they would know you had garlic. Garlic is a very outspoken, gregarious seasoning.

When I read the Letters of John, particularly the Third Letter, I find him similarly outspoken about “the truth”. This truth is the truth about all that Jesus is and has done for us. In short, the truth is the gospel. When John writes we find that the gospel is everywhere and in everything.

He is almost obsessively preoccupied with the truth. In verse 1 he loves them in truth. In verse 3 he is overjoyed because he has heard of a testimony in the truth. Again in verse 3 he hears they are walking in the truth which causes him to overflow with great joy. He says he has no greater joy than to hear these things (v.4). At the core of John’s soul is his love for the truth of God (gospel). Everything he sees, feels, pursues, loves, and prays for is shaped by the gospel. For the Apostle John, the garlic is the gospel. It is in everything. It is all over his breath. It can’t be contained. It is that outspoken, gregarious spiritual seasoning that gets into every sentence like garlic in every Italian dish.

It is a terrific reminder for us that this type of gospel scent comes by means of intentional exposure and effort. We spend time thinking about, marinating in, praying through, and speaking about the gospel. It is in the fabric of our souls before it becomes the fabric of our conversations. To push the garlic word picture perhaps to its maximum, you can’t sweat out the garlic without eating the garlic. It has got to be in you before it comes out of you.

Whatever else you say about John you have to conclude that this guy was a gospel-manaic. He left the scent behind in his writings.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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