“Anosmia is the inability to perceive odor or a lack of functioning olfactory – the loss of the sense of smell” (Wikipedia). Most people are not totally without the ability to smell.
A much more common issue is a lack of ability to smell certain smells, smells to which one has become desensitized. Febreze used the term “noseblind” in a 2014 ad campaign. However, the term was used by some before this. One website gave the following definition: “The gradual acclimation to the smells of one’s home, care or belongings, in which the affected does not notice them (even though their guests do)” (preshume.com).
A congregation, with which I once worked, met in a building with a basement. The auditorium and offices were located above. The class rooms, and fellowship hall was located in the basement. The basement had flooded several times through the years. Each time the water had been removed; clean up had been done. However, an odor persisted. Most members did not smell it. They had grown accustom to the odor over the years. Visitors did smell it, even from the auditorium above. It was repulsive to them. Some decided to attend elsewhere, explaining that the smell was too strong for them; or that they thought the mold would negatively affect their respiratory system. How embarrassing! Yet, many members could not smell it. Some of those who could, did not think it was a big deal – the visitors were just being too picky, or making an excuse.
I think that it is possible for individual Christians, and entire churches to become spiritually noseblind. (1) One may think that he is a faithful member, because he is faithful compared to other Christians he knows. Paul wrote, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Again, “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18). “All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits” (Proverbs 16:2). (2) A preacher may think that his sermons are clear and balanced. A mature member in the pew may have another impression. Is the whole counsel of God being proclaimed? (Acts 20:27). Do the sermons convince, rebuke, and exhort? (2 Timothy 4:2). It is easy to be self-deceived. This is why I have each year made available evaluation sheets and have solicited input from mature Christians. (3) A congregation may think that it is a friendly congregation(I’ve never met one that didn’t). A visitor may have another impression. I have seen congregations that are very friendly member to member, but were not welcoming to visitors. Melinda and I visited a large church in Oklahoma one Wednesday night (there a famous preacher preached whom I wanted to hear). Members were talking one to another before Bible class. No one introduced themselves to us. No one helped us navigate our children to the right class rooms. After class was no better. I took the incentive to introduce myself to a man near me. He too was a visitor! No one had greeted either one of us. I have also witnessed buildings and parking lots clear with in 5 minutes. This sends a message and leaves an impression. I have been a guest speaker in a place where no one invited me to lunch or to their house after preaching. I had nowhere to go for several hours till they met again. Such behavior sends a message and leaves an impression. We should be a welcoming, hospitable people to all. (4) A congregation may think it is sound (Unsoundness always seems to be somewhere else). A visitor may see poor attendance, a major swing in numbers between Bible class, Sunday morning worship assembly, Sunday night worship assembly, and Wednesday night Bible class (“Doesn’t every place have such drastic swings?” No. And even if such were the case, it wouldn’t make it right) . This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may notice members do not bring their Bibles, or do not open their Bibles. This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may notice many do not sing. This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may notice that they fight a lot in Bible class (and usually over non-essential matters). This sends a message and leaves an impression. They may see arrogance and self-righteousness, instead of humility and compassion. This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may see a lack of interest in the sermon, people talking, passing notes, texting, surfing the internet, or looking at their watches. This sends a message and an impression. He may see immodest dress and worldly talk. This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may know that the many of the members live in grand houses, drive expensive cars and trucks, wear nice clothes, shoes and boots – and then he looks at the total amount given each week. It does not add up to him. Do they value the church and its work so little? This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may hear gossip and negative talk, instead of encouraging and edifying words. This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may hear someone in the pulpit refer to the preacher as “pastor,” giving as “tithing,” evangelizing as “recruiting for our church,” a member of the church as “he is Church of Christ,” and members of the church of Christ as “Church of Christers,” and a construction project on the building as “work on the church.” This sends a message and leaves an impression. He may see the young man, who is waiting on the Lord’s table, wearing a t-shirt with a beer ad on it, or slovenly dressed. This sends a message and leaves an impression. If a visitor or new member hears the business of the church discussed, he may hear a lot of personal opinions and “I think”s but little or no reference to the Bible. This sends a message and leaves an impression. Moreover, if the visitor or new member dares voice his concerns, he is dismissed as the one with the problem (“After all, this is the way that we have always done things”). What message do we send? What impression do we leave?
How can spiritual noseblindness be removed? (1) We must spend time looking at the true standard. “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We need to observe our face in the mirror of God’s word (James 1:22-25). (2) We must determine that it is God whom we wish to please. “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).