Why is red the color of love?

The roses on my kitchen table are a fresh reminder of yesterday’s celebration of Valentine’s Day, where red hearts and flowers abounded. True, pink is in the mix, but almost as a diluted option, fit for those reluctant to speak affection in crimson boldness.

Red is certainly bold. Strong. Shocking, even. We are wired to react at the highest level of alarm at any sign of the deep scarlet of blood. Once, while on a hike down a tricky waterfall trail, my young son cut his leg. It wasn’t a serious wound, but it sent rivulets of blood down his calf as he and I hiked back to the car. The people who passed us turned pale as they caught sight of him. Finally, a young mother – no surprise -- stopped and offered us her bandana to stem the bleeding.

Red elicits compassion. At least, in moms.

There is a depth to red. The complexity of blood. The layers of subtlety in wine. The voraciousness of fire.

This morning, I was listening to the first chapter of Isaiah and was surprised to find numerous red references. There are “bruises and sores and raw wounds.” (vs. 6) Cities are “burned with fire.” (vs.7) Sacrifices bleed (vs. 11). Wine is diluted (vs. 22). In the most visceral image, God pictures his people raising their hands in worship, but those hands are full of blood. God has to avert his eyes -- that’s how offensive their sin is before Him.

In the midst of all that shocking redness, God promises this: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (vs. 18)

Perhaps this is where red and love became forever entwined. Jesus shed his blood to accomplish for eternity what God promised in that verse. We have no more power to cleanse ourselves from our crimson offense than did Lady Macbeth. Only Christ has the power to say, “Out, damned spot.”

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Jesus, for a love so amazing, so divine, I freely give my soul, my life, my all. Today, let the shocking extravagance of these red roses remind me of the extravagance of your love for me. Thank you for making me white as snow before the Father.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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