Some years ago, I was privileged to preach a revival in a small town in Northern Ireland. It was during the period know as ‘the Troubles’. It was a time when violence frequently erupted between Protestant and Catholic factions. The conflict was not only at the national level, but also spilled over in bitter conflicts at the local level.
Early one crisp, cloudy morning, I donned my heavy sweatshirt jacket and walked the half a mile up the hill to the center of town. At the top of the hill was a beautiful Church of Ireland. I stood by the church and peered down a street leading the opposite the direction from which I came. I saw a street sign hanging over the side walk that read – ‘Black Thorn Gift Shop’. I had long wanted a walking stick made from a Black Thorn tree. I walked to the shop and found it open. The elderly clerk scarcely acknowledged my presence. I took my liberty and looked through the small shop. I rooted through a bin of dusty canes and found exactly what I wanted. The proprietor was not as enthusiastic as I was about my ‘find’. In silence, he collected the purchase price and handed me the black thorn cane and walked away.
Returning home, I showed the pastor my purchase. He wanted to know where I found it. I shared the location and he gasp. You weren’t wearing that jacket were you? You are lucky you didn’t get shot. You crossed over into the radical Catholic (IRA) side of town. Your jacket is a Protestant color and the UK (University of Kentucky) logo would be seen to represents the hated United Kingdom. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
Duly noted, the next day I put on a windbreaker of a different color. I then set out in the opposite direction from the day before. When I returned, the pastor was anxiously waiting. When I told him where I walked, he informed me that I had walked into a radical Ulster Unionist neighborhood wearing IRA colors. A risky walk, indeed.
The phrase ‘showing one’s colors’ suddenly took on a deeper meaning for me. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms defines the phrase as: to show what one is really like or what one is really thinking; to show whose side one is on. I found a life lesson in this experience.
Christians are finding the world increasingly critical and even hostile to people of faith. In part, I believe this is due to people who pretend to be something they are not. Although they may try to appear to be Christian, careless living, behavior unbecoming a true follower of Christ, and lack of commitment to Biblical principles reflects something different. Jesus alerted us to those who don’t ‘show their true colors’. Here are two examples:
- “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16, NKJV).
- “He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mark 7:6).
Jesus issued a stern warning to believers whose profession does not match their possession: “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6, NIV). Dear bothers and sisters in Christ, we can only show the true colors of a Christian when Christ resides within. Are you showing the true colors of a Christian?
Prayer: Lord, as we move among family, friends, and fellow church members, may the colors we show truly be the colors of a pure heart.
~ Brother Roy