Graffiti and Grace

We all need a little color in our black-and-white lives. No sane man can exist long encased by whitewashed walls. So we choose hues and tones that communicate “I’m alive” and “I’m happy” and “I have good stuff.” Or at least “I’m surviving.” They would visit every topless club in Ft. Wayne—my buddies on the summer roofing crew. They painted their lives with the color of flesh. Some of my customers pass every weekend surrounded by empty bottles; amber is their color of choice. For others, it’s the colors of green and gold and silver tucked away in bank accounts.

We’re all on this quest to find just the right color to enhance our lives. Christians, Jews, Muslims. Atheists, agnostics, gnostics. Roofers, pastors, CEOs. Something that defines us, makes us happy, gives us hope, gives us a reason to roll out of bed in the morning. Maybe it’s the colors of sex or alcohol for you. Maybe it’s the varying shades of money or power. Maybe it’s fifty shades of religiosity that binds your conscience to a life of spiritual obedience. You dip the brush of your soul in something. And with it you paint the walls of your life. Because no man can endure a colorless existence.

One of the amazing things I’ve come to know about God is that he is the Lord of many colors. When I’ve dipped my brush in the midnight black of lust or greed and smeared those sable sins all over the walls of my life, he’s come along with a bucket of paint and covered over that black with a white so bright it blinds the eyes. When I’ve spray painted the graffiti of hate and revenge round about me, he’s covered over that malice with words in crimson that speak of absolution and reconciliation. Even when I’ve painted a hand with the middle finger uplifted to heaven, God painted over it an icon of a crucified man uplifted to heaven.

He is the Lord of many colors. And with these colors, like a master artist, he covers our failed attempts to find a reason for living apart from him. Though our sins are as scarlet, he paints them as white as snow. On the dark walls of our despair, he adds the bright colors of hope and healing. Since there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he paints over us the colors of the rainbow, for God is not angry but pleased with us in his Son.

When I visited Russia years ago, I bought a little icon from one of the Orthodox churches there. In magnificent color and stunning detail, it depicts a dozen scenes from the life of Jesus. All the way from his birth to his resurrection. The iconographer captured the totality of the Son of God’s ministry for us in a few square inches. Our lives are embedded in that icon as well. The hues of his holy birth coloring clean our own. The blues of his baptism washing us into his healing wounds. The crimson tint of his blood emblazoning us as God’s chosen. The exploding colors of the resurrection dyeing us with the marks of victors over death. The Lord of many colors colors us as his children in Christ Jesus.

We all need color in our black-and-white lives. Only in Christ are there colors that do more than satisfy. They paint our lives with grace and healing and hope. We discover in him, in the hues of his love, the people our Creator has formed us to be.