Stinky basil

Basil has a very nice quality in that it self-sows year after year. This is why I have a nice crop of something not-so-affectionately nicknamed “stinky basil.”

It was given to me a few years ago by a friend that knows that I love all the different basils in my garden; opal basil, Greek columnar basil, cinnamon basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, for instance.

This one was a stark exception.

The fragrance is….well….not exactly pleasant like my other basils. The tag was lost, and the variety name forgotten, but the characteristic pungent smell was unforgettable. I tried to learn more about what it was.

Research into various basil varieties has turned up an interesting bit of trivia, that the variety known as “holy basil” has a similar pungent odor.

After four years, I am still afraid to use it in any of my cooking! To tell the truth, it doesn’t taste very nice, either.

The connection between bad smells and the word “holy” is worthy of some thought. Do we turn up our noses at being holy? Do we consider some of God’s requirements for holiness “stinky,” as one might grimace at my unusual basil?

Holy basil was considered prized and special, even being required for worship in some Indian cultures. Even the generic name “basil” is derived from the Greek word basilikohn, which means “royal,” indicating the reverence shown to this herb by ancient culture.

God commands us to be holy. “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15).

The command for holiness and purity may not be odious in and of itself. We can agree in our hearts that we should be “set apart,” which is the meaning of holiness.

But it may be more of a challenge for us to follow through without our subconscious yelling, “That stinks!”

“Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

“That stinks!” we might say, as we suppress our conscience so we can have our fun.

Does regular church attendance seem odious to you? How about maintaining your “peculiar” Christian values in the midst of worldly standards in the workplace?

Maybe it’s not always easy to be a Christian. Maybe sometimes it could seem that it stinks.

What is certain is that following the principles and teachings set out for us in scripture will make us actually smell better! Unlike “holy basil,” the holiness that God calls us to doesn’t smell bad!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NASB).

The knowledge of Christ is a pleasant scent to those who are open to it. Don’t allow yourself to call what is holy “stinky,” but be a sweet aroma to those around you by soaking up God’s words.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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