Traditions We Die Red For

red

TheDiscipleMd

My wife and I have visited the Pennsylvania Dutch country many times over the years. The view of its beautiful countryside and serene farms always leave us with a peaceful feeling. The Amish farms are beautifully kept and provide an opportunity to take an interesting step back in time. On one occasion as I was driving through, I noted the beauty of the red barns. For some reason I asked myself, “Why are almost all barns painted red?” So, when I got home I looked it up on the internet to see if I could find an answer. Here’s what I found.

“Inasmuch as ready-made paint was not available, a farmer mixed his own. He discovered that skimmed milk, lime and red iron oxide made a plastic-like coating that hardened quickly and lasted for years. Occasionally, it hardened too well and peeled off in sheets. Linseed oil was subsequently added to the recipe to provide the necessary soaking quality. Thus American “barn red” was born. It came into being through function and utility, rather than decor or superstition…Red has remained the traditional color for most American barns, particularly in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. We can thank our ingenious colonial forebears for this visually appealing, colorful heritage”

Now while this answer might not be complete, it is clear that the color red came as a natural result of using the important ingredient of “red iron oxide”. The red color was simply a by-product of the effective mixture of the preservative coating of the barn. Times have changed and chemical innovation has long since made the use of “red iron oxide” obsolete in painting barns. Yet most barns are still red. Why? Well, I don’t know the complete answer. There is some belief that the color red holds more of the sun’s heat ray’s in the winter months than other colors, but mostly, I think, farmers are traditionalists. The color red has been used for centuries, so why paint it green? I mean, I have never seen a barn painted green, have you?

Traditions and habits are hard to change once they have made their way into our “normal” lives. Often, like the red barn of the farmers, we don’t ever question our norms but just continue onward. The Jews at the times of Jesus were set in their ways. After Christ’s death and resurrection, Stephen, a disciple of the Savior, was stoned to death because, as witnesses testified against him.

“…we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us” (Acts 6:14)

The Jews had their barns painted “red”, and they didn’t want to paint them any other color. Because, well…that’s not the way it is! The Lord, from the beginning of time, has required a “change” of heart from His people. A re-birth if you will. The “old” person becomes someone “new.” That is not an easy task for many of us. Most barns are painted red, but the Lord has required of us that we paint ours of a different color. And what would that color be? Answer: Whatever color He wants?” I hope all of us can be willing, and humble enough to paint our barns whatever color the Lord desires.

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