Those of our Catch community in America are going to be seeing a lot of red, white and blue in the next couple days. Since, as followers of Jesus, we are members of two kingdoms, and since a brief study of the origins of those colors and what they mean in the history of the nation is largely ambiguous, I’m going to take the liberty to take the colors in our national symbol and give them significance in the kingdom of God. This is not necessarily right or biblical, but simply a way to think about our faith in light of all the red, white and blue we’ll see in the next two days.
Red is easy. Red is the blood of the sacrifice for sin that has been necessary since the garden. Sin has to be paid for by death, so in the old covenant, if sinners were going to go on living — something had to die when they sinned — a sacrifice had to be made, and thus the practice of sacrificing the blood of sheep, goats, and bulls was instituted to cover the sins of the Israelites. Of course all of these were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Once that had taken place, no more sacrifices were necessary; instead, it is faith in Christ that is now required for the forgiveness of sins. That’s why the blood of Jesus covers all our sin.
And white is easy, too. It is the color of our hearts once we have been forgiven by God. Isaiah 1:18 says it all: “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” And it represents the white robes of righteousness we will wear in heaven — a righteousness not of our own but entirely of Christ.
But blue is a stretch, and here’s where I hope we will all do a little reflection on the blue we will see all around us during this holiday. I would like us to think of our more American musical tradition when we think of blue, that of “the blues.” The blues express sadness — hard life — down in the dumps. They originated from the Negro spirituals expressing the loss of identity, over work and abuse of slavery. Later, in musical tradition, the blues took on anything that makes you sad, like the loss of a girlfriend. Whatever makes you sing the blues.
So I want us to come to grips with a certain sadness about following Christ. I’m not trying to put a downer on your happy Fourth of July, I’m just wanting us to remember that we as Christians should carry around a certain sadness about the world. It would be a little like the sadness Jesus carried when scripture says He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. What was that sadness and what was that grief? It was the sadness and grief that sin has brought into the world. Death, disease, poverty, hunger, violence — Jesus saw it everywhere and it broke His heart.
It makes me blue that everyone doesn’t know about the love of Jesus. It makes me blue that people are suffering. It makes me blue that there is so much cruelty in the world. It makes me blue when I see how my own sin hurts people. Shall I go on? There is no end to the list.
So shall we be blue all the time? No, but we should carry on with hearts of compassion. Christians should be happy — but not too happy, sad — but not too sad. We are happy for what Christ has done; we are sad for the world that continues to show us so graphically why He had to do it. We are happy for our forgiveness; we are sad that we keep on needing it. We rejoice in our salvation, but we still have reason to sing the blues.
So if you’re an American, celebrate the red, white and blue of our freedom this holiday; and if you’re a Christian, be reminded about the red, white and blues of our faith.