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The Word on the Week

Flags

It would be hard to motor from Dublin to Aberdeen, Scotland, as we did last week, without noting the presence of flags.

In Ireland they adorn anything from lampposts to blocks of flats. In Scotland they were more evident on cars and houses.

In both countries the “Union Jack” was being flown to denote an allegiance for the British Crown. The statement they made was that this allegiance was to be preferred to another allegiance denoted by the other flag.

In Ireland the tricolour’s primary colour is green which is flown next to the flagpole and represents the Gaelic tradition. The other colour is Orange representing William of Orange and has come to symbolise those who esteem his memory. The white separating the two colours symbolises a truce where both are linked together.

In the Union flag the red cross of England and Wales is bisected by the two saltire crosses of Ireland (red) and Scotland (white). The Scottish cross appears against a blue background whereas the other crosses have a white background. Again the symbolism is one of unity and inclusion.

However at present the Scottish saltire cross (a white St Andrew’s cross on a blue background) has been extracted from the Union Jack and is being used as the flag of independent Scotland. The vote on independence is one year off by which time there will doubtless be plenty of flags of both variety on display!

The unity and inclusion symbolised by the flags is seldom a reality but rather an aspiration. Instead flags can so easily stake out territories and become symbols in the power struggles of our time.

What would the Bible comment on these things?

All three flags are used by people who would claim a connection to Christianity.

The Irish flag with its message of joining people of different opinions together bears the contradiction of symbolising unity whilst recalling the victory of William of Orange. It is hard to have reciprocal love for ones neighbour while waving a symbol of his defeat! The irony is that whose who wave it most are those who would espouse the Orange least!

The aspirations of the Union Jack by focusing on the cross have chosen the symbol which epitomises the love of God (Romans Chapter 5 verse 8). It is the agape love which seeks the good of others before self. It speaks of sacrifice for ones country and indeed has been waved in many battles to encourage loyalty and commitment.

The irony here is to see it being used by a largely agnostic people to represent their country before the world.

Shed of their values they become tools of dissention within the land. A re-focussing in faith on the Christ who bore the cross in order to make a way for we sinners to find reconciliation with God is the starting point. Out of our being forgiven the way opens for us to see things differently. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5 verses 16/18.