Storms with high winds often result in “Red Flag Days,” when swimming at the beach is prohibited. It is always a sad sight on a vacation day to pull up to the beach and spot a red flag flying with the words “NO SWIMMING,”and realize the surf is too rough to play in. Of course there are some who ignore the warnings. Some surfers look forward to red flag days, as the surf produces huge waves. A red flag is posted at every beach access warning people away, so if you are visiting the Outer Banks and see one, go to the aquarium!
The phrase “red flag” has long been used as a warning against something. Teachers will report that a child’s behavior was a red flag pointing to a situation that required further attention. Spouses can discover something about their spouse that is a red flag indicating that something is very wrong. Currently there is a federal bipartisan bill being discussed in the Senate called the Red Flag Law which would enable those who have seen warning signs (aka red flags) to seek a court order to intervene and temporarily prevent someone who is in crisis from having access to a firearm.
Think back to a time when something went wrong in your life. Can you go back a little farther and spot a red flag? One that you ignored?
I think the temptation to sin is often accompanied by flaming, flying red flags. You know the signs: that feeling you got just at the moment that you let a “harmless flirtation” (no such thing, by the way) turn into a full blown affair. That flash of warning that went through your mind before you yelled at your child in full blown anger. That thought of “I shouldn’t do this” as you raised your hand to strike, or lift a glass to your lips, or steal something, or to shoot something in your vain. That juicy piece of gossip that you couldn’t resist passing along even as your mind was warning you not to….
Red flags are the work of the Holy Spirit, who works hard on your behalf to keep you safe, whole and right:
1 Peter 1 (NIV)
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
That power of God that accomplished the salvation of the world is accessible to you in red flag moments. Even before the creation of the world, God was working on a plan to save you….from yourself. We are called to live out this time on earth in “reverent fear,” and are reminded that God judges each person’s work impartially. That, right there my friends, is a red flag with eternal consequences.
So be holy. Make holy decisions. Choose holy choices. Look out for the red flags God is putting up, and run fast and far away from that temptation that is sure to pull you into its undertow. You no longer live in the ignorance of evil desires. God calls us out of an empty way of life to live a holy life: our faith and hope rest in the safety of his grace.