The Innocence of Children and the Meaning of Symbols

Yesterday was Celebration Sunday at our church. Every year on the Sunday after VBS we have a celebration of all the children who gave their hearts to Christ during the week and the children who were able to hear the message, even if they did not act on it at the time. We have old style carnival games and blow up slides and bounce houses and little entertaining things like face painting. It’s a big party. This year I got roped into volunteering for the face painting, even though painting is far from my comfort zone and I was intrigued by something.

We had 5 different designs: Snowflakes, A Dog, A Pirate, A Snow Leopard, and a Rainbow. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a lot but for volunteers that have no idea what they are actually doing… it’s interesting, though the kids looked great in their painted faces. During my hour I had several little girls ask me to paint the rainbow on their face.

A Aymbol is what you make it
An approximation of the rainbow face painting option.

It looked a little like this rainbow that I drew on Paint. With the recent decision made by the supreme court I started thinking about the rainbow in the light of homosexuality. Then I realized… These kids don’t think of the rainbow like this. They are 6 at the most, 3 at the least. (Or the ones I had were)

They wanted this rainbow painted on their face because rainbows are pretty! They are cool pieces of nature. To these kids it did not represent gay pride.

Long ago when Noah and his family and all the male and female animal pairs got off the ark God made a rainbow in the sky as a promise that He would never flood the earth again! The rainbow, though taken as a symbol of gay pride, has no meaning to these children other than a pretty splash of color.

There are so many symbols flying around right now it’s crazy. We have the confederate flag under debate in the wake of the Charleston shootings, rainbows have been on my Facebook feed so much I’d really appreciate seeing some old version black and white photos… one person went so far as to say their Facebook feed looked like the confederates and a skittles factory got into a fight. It’s crazy!!!

People are blaming the confederate flag for racism. They call it a symbol of racism… I don’t think so. They want it banned, and while I am a Christian I do not believe that it’s the answer. The confederate flag is just a flag! A symbol is what you make it. If it is a piece of your heritage then that is what it is, if it is a representation of your sexuality that is what it is. If it’s a bunch of pretty colors, it’s bunch of pretty colors.

In high school I didn’t think about gay pride, it did not matter to me. I decided to braid my own lanyard to put my school ID on… I made a rainbow. I was not thinking of gay pride. I just put colors in the ROY G BIV pattern I had been taught in art classes and in science classes (regarding prisms and color spectrum). I liked the pattern. Until someone pointed out what its meaning had become. Then I gave the lanyard away and made something in blues and greens and browns, natural colors that I researched as having so sexual or political meaning.

Did you know the first time I encountered the word “gay” was in Black Beauty by Anna Sewell… a classic book about the life of a horse? It had something to do with a pony trotting in a gay manner down the street. Gay meant happy. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation. For the longest time that was the only meaning of it I knew. When someone used the word on me as an insult (I think they were telling me I was stupid or dumb) I thought they were telling me I was happy and told them, “No, I’m actually kinda pissed off right now so you might want to back away.” (I was a strange child and I talked funny.)

We had a speaker yesterday from Holy Wow Ministries who told us that when He first went to church and heard the name Jesus Christ he thought the pastor was swearing.

Even words only mean what you take them to mean. These days anything can be taken offensively. Whether it be a flag, a selection of colors, a word, a symbol.

The swastika originally was a Sanskrit symbol meaning “good fortune” or “well-being” and likely represented the sun rising and setting in the sky and the continuance of life as it spins. Now when we see it all we think of are Nazis and the millions of Jews they murdered in their cause. In reality the meaning of the symbol is opposite of what we think.

The point I’ve been repeating and trying to get across: A symbol only means what you think it means.

There is no way to please everyone.

People these days get offended very easily… you know it’s true.

Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, about two thousand years ago, the Romans ruled the Mediterranean and most of Europe. The Roman army was the fiercest army since Alexander The Great. No one withstood them for long. In the end, everyone fell. The Romans, like all societies had death penalties. In a time where there were no more enemies to fight (for they ruled the world) the soldiers were virtually reduced to officers of the law and nothing more. But they trained and they trained. They were great fighters. But they had nothing to fight so they took their duties seriously as peacekeepers and jailers.  Whenever an enemy of the empire was sentenced to death they took great care to learn how far a man could go in regards to pain. They became experts at inflicting pain and death. They wanted to set examples which would be remembered. No one wanted to endure punishment at the hands of Roman soldiers.

The worst method was one that could last for days if done right. People dreaded this sentence. It was horrifying, involving dislocated joints, blood, lungs and internal organs being crushed by the weight of your own body. The pain of being unable to support your own weight as you hung there, nailed through the wrists or hands and through your feet to wooden beams by something akin to a railroad spike… Crucifixion. The cross looked somewhat like a capital “T”, the ones that looked like a lowercase “t” were reserved for those whose crimes were to be posted above their heads. This was s symbol of death and pain, and the cruelest way to die. There are few methods of death worse than this, and even most of those few do not last as long as being crucified. When people saw a cross they were afraid. (There were bound to have been a few exceptions)

One day all of this changed. There was a man among the Jewish people. His name was Jeshua (J pronounced as a Y). He was the son of a carpenter. He did no wrong to anyone. Yet, the Jewish leaders did not accept Him, they did not like His teachings. His teaching threatened their religious power. They tried several times to trap Him in religious debates, but every time He answered perfectly, putting them to shame. He was more than the son of a carpenter. In fact, the carpenter was not His father.

His father was the God of the Jews, the Israelites. One day the Jewish religious leaders convinced the Romans to try Him and execute Him for He had proclaimed himself King of the Jews. This was treason. Now, they could have easily labeled him a mad man and left him alone, but his following was too great. People loved Him, Jews and Non-Jews. He taught them to love one another. He taught them that no one was beyond saving. More than that, He taught them to live as they should, with love and with compassion. So they had him captured, tried, and killed.

He was sentenced to die by Crucifixion, the people chose to set a proven murderer free over him. When the day came for Him to die His body was already ravaged from the lashing He had received. Yet He was made to carry His cross, in its entirety, a weight of around 300 pounds, to the sight of His death.

While He was on the cross He refused wine, water, and anything that might relieve the pain. He died slowly and painfully, several times before his betrayal and while He was enduring it He asked His father, if it be the will of God, let Him not need to do this, let Him live, but he needed to die. He was a sacrifice. In the end they drove a spear through His side to be certain He was dead. During the last three hours of his life the sky turned black and the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, the earth shook, tombs broke open and holy people were raised to life and appeared to many within the holy city.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can not begin to imagine how gruesome a sight He must have been, let alone the terror as all of this happened… 3 hours of darkness in the middle of the day, earth quakes, and the dead rising.

He was taken and buried in a tomb, dead. Guards, Roman soldiers (the best in the world), were placed outside the tomb with a large stone sealed to the entrance. Within 3 days something happened. Death lost its hold on Jeshua. He came back to life. He had been the sacrifice for our sins. You and I know Jeshua by a different name, Jesus.

For many people the cross went from being a symbol of death and pain, to a symbol of hope and relief.

A Symbol is what you make of itSymbols are what we see them as. The confederate flag is a symbol of racism to some, to others it is a symbol of their southern heritage or states’ rights. The Rainbow can be a symbol of gay pride, God’s covenant with Noah and his family, or just a pretty occurrence in nature involving sunlight and water. The cross is a symbol of death to some, but to Christians all around the world it is a symbol of hope. Christ died and got off the cross. It is a symbol of what He did, what He went through to save us and take the punishment for our sins.

If someone were to ask me not to wear my cross, or to refrain from putting up images of one in my yard or house, or anywhere else because it offended them, you could bet that I would never comply with that willingly, because for me the cross is not offensive, it is not a symbol of death, condemnation, or pain. It is a symbol of hope for me, a symbol of relief. Because Christ died on the cross and then defeated death.

Symbols are what you choose to see them as. If a child can ignore the meanings that a symbol has taken on, why should we let ourselves be dictated by the meanings of the symbols. Being offended these days, is a choice. We have become a society where we are intolerant of symbols, opinions, and pretty much anything that we do not think of as agreeing with our own beliefs, and it is a sad world where the government must be asked to ban a flag, or people feel the need to take offense at the sight of a rainbow or some stars.

Symbols mean nothing, unless you give them meaning. To me, the confederate flag is meaningless. I am a white-heterosexual-Christian female from the NORTH of this country. The flag means nothing to me. Rainbows to me represent the covenant made by God when he promised never to destroy the world as He did in Noah’s time, no matter how bad it gets. Mercy! Rainbows are a symbol of mercy to me and therefore remind me to be merciful and not to condemn the people who wave it as their banner, because God will not do that, not again. His son will come first.

I'd love to hear your opinion! Feel free to link to your blog if you have one, I'm always looking for something new to read.

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