God placed a mark on Cain that made him
immediately recognizable (Gen. 4:15). We do not know what the mark was and it
is pointless and idle to speculate. Sometimes the actions and activities of
people leave marks that make them recognizable to others. For example: tobacco,
alcohol, and other noxious drugs identify their users by sight and smell, and
in other ways too. I wonder, would it be good for us if there were some
universal mark or sign that would identify and declare every feeling, attitude,
and intention – something that would immediately and accurately reveal what a
person really is? What sign could be flexible and adaptable enough for the
purpose? Color might serve such a purpose adequately.
We already use color to express a wide
variety of ideas. The flag (often called “the colors”) is an identifiable
symbol of the nation. When we say that some person “showed his true colors” we
mean he revealed his true nature. “Traveling under false colors” is hypocrisy,
deceit, disguise – pretending to be something or someone else. The request to
“show your colors” means “identify yourself, declare yourself and your
intention.” Colors can also symbolize conditions or intended actions. For
example: a red flag means danger or stop. Amber means caution. Green means
safety, or go. Flying special colors from a ship’s mast can indicate activity.
Example: “Under colors as if to cast anchors from the bow” (Acts 27:30). We use
colors to express moods, feelings, or attitudes. Pink for pleasure, red for
embarrassment or shame (Ezra 9:6), white for fear, gray for anxiety, yellow for
cowardice, green for jealousy or lust, blue for loneliness, purple for anger or
rage or passion, brown for depression or gloom, and black for hatred or
It might be good if we actually changed
color as our mood or attitude changed, or when we intended to do certain
things. There would be no deceit, no
hiding of the truth from each other. Just think how easily a preacher could
monitor the audience’s reaction to his sermons. The angry ones would turn purple,
the pleased would be pink, the frightened would be pale white, the discouraged
or depressed would be brown. What color would show up in the resentful? What
color do you suppose the murderers of Stephen would have been when they stopped
up their ears, gnashed their teeth, and stoned him to death (Acts 7:57-58). For
that matter, what color would apply to those who crucified Jesus Christ? Color
them insane. Suppose that when you questioned a person he turned true blue when
he told the truth, or perhaps blushed red for shame when he lied. Of course
some feel no shame about their lies and mistakes or their bad behavior (Jer.
8:12), and some have seared and scarred their own conscience so they can “lie
with a straight face” – no blushing. But if the change of color was immediate
and involuntary and consistent, then the truth or the lie would always be
apparent and verifiable.
Let’s go a bit further with it. Suppose one
actually turned green when he lusted for something he shouldn’t have, or when
he 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,
social or economic position: black with hatred, gray with anxiety or distrust,
yellow with fear, etc. What color would best illustrate love, concern,
appreciation, interest, and sincerity? Perhaps clear or transparent, for
guileless. I suppose indecision or uncertainty might appear as striped,
checked, or mottled – but that would be helpful too.
No doubt you’ve been thinking that all of this is a bit far-fetched and unrealistic. It doesn’t happen, and isn’t going to happen. So color us all relieved. But the attitudes, feelings, and intentions are real even if the colors are not. Sometimes they are expressed in ways that can be monitored: the look in the eyes, the set of the chin or the body; perhaps there is a verbal response. But whether expressed or not, they are present; they are real; they must be dealt with. Some attitudes are wrong, no matter how well hidden they may be: such things as pride (Prov. 16:18), prejudice (James 2:9), jealousy and lust (Mt. 5:27 and James 4:2), hatred (1 John 2:9 and 4:20), etc. But because we are often able to keep them hidden from others we do not feel much pressure about correcting the wrong ones or strengthening those which are right and proper.
Someday, in the judgment of God, we will
show our true colors – they will actually be displayed for us, whether we want
it or not. We may be surprised at what we see in ourselves. “We must all be
made manifest” (our lives revealed fully and displayed openly) before our Judge
(2 Cor. 5:10 ASV). Some will say, “Lord, Lord we did not know.” (Mt. 7:21-22
and 22:41-46), but it will not change anything then.