Show your colors

Number 650 • June 9, 2021


God placed a mark upon Cain that identified him and made him immediately recognizable after he had killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:15). We are not told what the mark was, but some conjecture that it was color – it is actually idle and futile to speculate. Sometimes the actions and activities of people leave recognizable marks (for example: dissipation with alcohol, tobacco, and other noxious drugs). Would it be good and helpful for us if there were some universal mark or sign that would identify and declare every feeling, attitude and intention, something that could not be controlled and manipulated — that would make chameleons of us all — but something involuntary that could not be counterfeited or pretended, something that would immediately and accurately reveal thoughts, intentions, and attitudes, what a person really is? What mark or sign could be flexible and adaptable enough for the purpose? Color might serve adequately.

We already use color to express and signify a wide variety of ideas. The flag, in our case called “the red, white, and blue” is called our “colors,” a recognizable symbol of our nation. Virtually all nations have their colors, their flag. When we say that someone “showed his true colors” we mean he revealed his true nature. But “traveling under false colors” is hypocrisy, disguise, deceit, hiding one’s true nature or intent, pretending to be something other than what one is. The request to “show your colors” means “identify yourself, declare who and what you are and what you intend to do.” Colors can symbolize conditions or intended actions: a red light or flag of warning – danger, stop; amber means caution; green light of safety, go, keep moving. Flying special colors from a ship’s mast indicates current activity or planned activity. For example, in Acts 27:30 the ship was “under color as if to cast anchors from the bow.” Colors green and red mark the left and right side of a ship approaching. Colors can also indicate distress, a request for assistance.

We also use colors to express moods and feelings: pink for pleasure, red for embarrassment or shame, white for fear, gray for anxiety, yellow for cowardice, green for jealousy or lust, blue for loneliness, purple for anger or rage, black for hatred, brown for depression or gloom or despair.

It might be good and helpful if we actually changed color as our mood or attitude changed, or when we were inclined or intending to do certain things. There could be no deceit, no hiding of the truth from each other. Just think how easily a preacher could monitor and assess the audience’s reactions and response to his sermons. Angry listeners would turn purple, pleased ones would turn pink. How would you color the resentful? What color would the murderers of Stephen be when they stopped up their ears, gnashed their teeth, and stoned him to death? (Acts 7:57-58). Color them insane! Suppose when you questioned a person he turned blue (true blue) when telling the truth, red (for shame) when he lied, black (with anger and malice) when he intended to hurt you in retaliation when he didn’t like your words (it could help you to know whether to run, retreat, or stand your ground). Some feel no shame about their lies and their mistakes, some have seared their own conscience so they can “lie with a straight face – not able to blush even when they are committing abominations (Jeremiah 8:12). But if the change in color was immediate, involuntary, and consistent then the truth or the lie would always be apparent and verifiable.

Let’s go further. Suppose one actually turned green when lusting for something he shouldn’t have or envied the things of others? How would it be if one’s true feelings showed in his face each time he looked at a person of another race, nationality, or social position: black with hatred, gray with anxiety or distrust, yellow with fear? What color would best illustrate love, concern, appreciation, interest, and sincerity? Perhaps transparent or clear for honesty, guilelessness – no hidden or inappropriate motives? I suppose ulterior motives or indecision and confusion might be striped, checked, or mottled and smudged – but that would be helpful too.

No doubt you are thinking by now that all of this is a bit far-fetched — it doesn’t happen and isn’t going to happen. Now color us relieved!

But THE ATTITUDES, FEELINGS, AND INTENTIONS ARE REAL WHETHER THE COLORS ARE REAL OR NOT. Sometimes they are expressed in ways that can be monitored: the look in the eyes, a smile or a frown, the set of the chin or back or body, perhaps a verbal response. Whether expressed or not, whether acted out or not they are real and must be dealt with. Some attitudes are wrong, no matter how suppressed or well hidden they may be: pride (Proverbs 16:18), prejudice (James 2:9), jealousy and envy and lust (Matthew 5:27, James 4:2-3), hatred and ill-will (1 John 2:9 and 4:20), etc. But, because we are able to keep them hidden from others we do not feel pressured about correcting the wrong ones and strengthening the ones which are right and proper.

Someday, in the judgment of God, all of us will show our true colors. We may be surprised at what we see in ourselves and disturbed by what others see in us – what we see in each other. But we must all be made manifest, our lives revealed fully and displayed openly before our Judge (2 Corinthians 5:10). Some will probably say, “Lord, Lord we did not know” (Matthew 7:21-23 and 25:31-46) but it will not change anything then.

If I could choose the color I would want all of us to be it would be white: washed (not whitewashed, painted and colored over to hide the truth), washed and made white (pure, righteous, blameless) in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). <><>

I have met a few people in my life who were really enthusiastic and forceful about hard work. It was just my luck that all of them happened to be people I was working for at the time. I wonder if God is like that, expecting and demanding the best I can do. Do you wonder what He expects and requires of you?

If all churches were closed and all worship assemblies were forbidden and all Bibles were destroyed some people would be glad and some would be mad and some would be sad — if they ever found out about it.

It is not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong.

It is not what we gain but what we save and keep that makes us rich.

It is not what we read or hear but what we understand and remember that makes us intelligent.

It is not what we say and profess but what we do and practice that identifies us as Christians.

A politician is a person who will lay down your life and goods for himself and his country.

The self-made man is often a pathetic example and result of unskilled labor.

Nature cannot make us perfect so it does the next best thing and makes us blind to our faults.

If the blind leads the blind the leader stumbles over an obstacle and the one being led stumbles over the leader.

If one is a failure he will either evade the truth or seek the company of his own kind for sympathy or for some degree of respectability by their acceptance of him.

One usually has difficulty accepting and admitting failure. He may shift the blame to others when he fails – but will probably take all the credit for himself when he succeeds.

#geraldcowan #colors