Have you ever looked at something, your brain processed the images, then you had to stop and go back to look at the images again? The old double take happens occasionally. Last week, we had dinner in a nearby eatery. As we departed that place, I was the last person out the door and my double take occurred.
My eyes were drawn to the image to the left of this picture. The swastika seemed to leap off the wall of the entrance to the restaurant. I looked at it and walked past, then retraced my steps and stood there bewildered. Wait. What?
As I was about to go all holier than thou on the architect and question why a nazi symbol would be there, my "smarter than me" wife mentioned the other symbols on the wall were holy in nature. After further inspection, I noticed the other symbols on the wall. Ah, that explains the images. Doing a little research later helped me understand that Nazis co-opted the symbol to represent their Nazi party.
The swastika (also known as the Hakenkreuz, gammadion cross, cross cramponnée, croix gammée, fylfot, or tetraskelion) (as a character 卐 or 卍) is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indian subcontinent, being the symbol of peace and continuity that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back at least 11,000 years. It continues to be commonly used as a religious symbol in religions native to Nepal and India such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Western literature's older term for the symbol, gammadion cross, derives mainly from its appearance, which is identical to four Greek gamma letters affixed to each other The name swastika comes from the Sanskrit word svastika (Devanāgarī: स्वस्तिक), meaning "lucky or auspicious object".
It has been used as a decorative element in various cultures since at least the Neolithic Age. It is known most widely as an important symbol, long used in Indian religions, denoting "auspiciousness".
The swastika was adopted by several organizations in pre-World War I-Europe and later, and most notably, by the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany prior to World War II. In many Western countries, the swastika has been highly stigmatized because of its use in and association with Nazism.
It is a bit unnerving to have seen the swastika on the building in our town, yet, its meaning is much less ominous than what our 20th and 21st century minds can perceive. Knowing this image is holy by nature but was later co-opted to represent a horrible regime in our world history does temper my surprise.
Our faith requires us to walk through life and negotiate things that look threatening but are innocent and things that look innocent that are threatening. How do we discern there conundrums?
Reason and discernment help here. Jesus instructed his followers to evaluate the fruit of those who come speaking on behalf of God. False prophets would offer fruit of lesser quality while those prophets of God would bear good fruit. He was telling the disciples to be careful. Check this conversation between Jesus and those near him.
A Tree and Its Fruit
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious
wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from
thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear
bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and
thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord,
Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 7:15-21, NIV)
Hmmm, "by their fruits you will recognize them" sounds like good advice. Jesus warned against those who came speaking on behalf of God but later turned out to be wolves posing as sheep. Yikes!
As we live and move and have our being in Jesus Christ, let's be careful to weigh words and actions of others and see if they are bearing eternal fruit for God's kingdom or leading us down a path away from God's kingdom. Better still, let's weigh our own words and actions to see if we are bearing quality fruit for God!