Meaning of Red

Welcome back to the colouring party! This week we are going to look at a mysterious and paradoxical colour: the beautifully alluring colour of red. Take a moment to think of your version of red. Is it bright and colourful like the primary box of crayon-coloured fire trucks from your elementary school days? Or is it deep and foreboding like the thick petals of an English rose? Perhaps a more cheerful shade like summer strawberries or glinting bows on a Christmas package all tied up in ribbons? A pinkish shade like the tongue of a friendly puppy? Or almost black maroon like the dress of some evil mistress from the horror movies in stiletto heels? We have between 30 and 40 odd shades that we attribute to the colour “red”, each of us adhering to our own favourite: There is scarlet and crimson, cerise and magenta, maroon, carmine, claret and burgundy, as well as carnelian and cherry and cardinal red. To say nothing of ruby or garnet or vermilion, and wine, terracotta and rust; simply to name a few.

Photo by Pixabay on

Canadians, of course, love our red and white flag with the 11 pointed leaf, our beacon of allegiance and the symbol of all things maple. It reminds me that spring will finally arrive when the sap starts running and assures me that time does in fact move on, even when winter seems so long. You can take the figuratively or literally if you wish. Perhaps your Canadian vision of red includes Anne of Green Gables and the delightful story of the red-headed girl who so hated her auburn locks. You can read about my musings on her over at this post. Red hair, that’s another whole topic, isn’t it?

But let’s get back to our study of red. I might have chosen the most difficult colour to start with as it seems that this shade is so broad in its “meanings” and the internet has lots to say about it. It’s the longest colour in the spectrum of colours that humans can see, and is, in fact, the first colour that babies can “see”. Red is said to be a physical stimulant and actually raises our blood pressure and respiratory rate. Perhaps we need to re-paint our boy’s room as two of their four walls are red. And it chips terribly. Don’t use it for walls. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, this shade of our colour wheel is almost paradoxical: it gets us going but halts us to “stop”. Often associated with blood, we think of it as “the red cross” of life giving — and yet, also of so much torture, and life ending violence. Certainly it is a colour of extremes, and seems to follow that in its biblical references.

 Now, I must make note here that I am not an expert on symbolism and I do not claim to have all the answers. It’s simply you and I thinking about such things and musing together. Biblical accounts and psychology and even “spirituality” often get muddled in the great wide world, so I will pick and choose our references as carefully as I can. So let’s dive in.

The Hebrew word for red is “oudem”. Its actually meaning is “Red Clay”. Think of the Biblical names Adam, Esau and Edom which are all derived from this Hebrew word and are often described as “ruddy” or the terracotta shade of clay from the earth. From this we have red representing humanity — and with it the sin of our human natures. We are nothing but mere mortals, primitive beings made of clay. That primal definition is carried in many circles and often leads us to think of red as elemental like fire, which in turn conjures up ideas like passion, anger, vengeance. This is certainly the case for the fiery red horse mentioned in Revelation 6 who will take away any peace left among men. Or the terrible vengeance described in Isaiah 63. Yes, one day our Holy God will have vengeance against the sin and destruction that evil has unleashed in our world — and our streets will run red with the destruction and agony of our passions and lust.

photo credit Demi-Brook of dbphotography

Be that as it may, our red, in it’s paradoxical ways, shows us the flip side of this destruction, for red can also be our signal for the life giving sacrifice of our Saviour’s blood shed on the cross. Time and time again we see it as a passage to safety, a cleansing from destruction and a sign that God’s plan will ultimately be the one to be carried out. Rahab’s scarlet flag for rescue, the sign of the blood red moon and painted doorposts of Egypt’s great rescue, and ultimately the cross where, if we choose, we may be washed as white as snow. Ah yes, red is truly a passionate colour — but not of Valentines and stiletto heels. It’s the passion of ultimate sacrifice, of agape love and of cleansing redemption. Turning clay into treasure.

I’m excited to be hosting this colouring party here at! Did you miss our first post? Don’t miss our next one! Join us and receive the muses each week via email! Subscribe here.

2 thoughts on “Meaning of Red

  1. Pingback: Is it Okay to Doodle in Church? | mittonmusings

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