I feel the tension rise when I’m told this or that is a ‘satanic symbol’. There’s a part of me that appreciates the warning, remembers 1 Peter 5:8, and wants to avoid being devoured by the roaring lion.
But another part of me knows that symbols are nothing in themselves, that they are given meaning only in a particular context, and in the minds of those both using and viewing the symbol.
An ‘x’ next to a schoolchild’s algebra solution means the answer is wrong. At the end of a message inside a greetings card it symbolises love. In front of the letters ‘mas’ it either means Christ, or that the perpetrator is trying to secularise the festive season.
Famously the swastika was an auspicious symbol in many Eastern religions, especially Jainism, for thousands of years before Hitler chose it as an emblem of Nazism and Aryan supremacy.
So I’m ambivalent about symbols, and this is how I rationalise my response:
Jesus is The Way. I can picture my Christian journey as a road I’m driving along, and I pray that I’m travelling in the right direction – along The Way.
There are signs along the road that are helpful to me. Sometimes the signs tell me I’m still on course. These signs might be answered prayers, small miracles or inner peace and other fruit of the Spirit.
There are more signs that warn me that I’ve taken a wrong turn, when the Spirit convicts me, or when a brother or sister corrects me.
And then there are signs that divert me. The temptations. The signs that promise me a short cut, an easier route, or the chance to take a break from the journey.
These are all signs that I need to be aware of and understand so that I don’t become lost.
And then there are the distractions. Satanic symbols are in this category. So are many church ceremonies and traditions, and denominations. In this world there are a lot of distractions.
The distractions are like advertising hoardings. They say something that may or may not be interesting or useful, but if you keep your eye on them for too long you will naturally find yourself driving towards them. That might lead to a crash, or just an uncomfortable ride, but it won’t lead to anything good. So although I might give them a glance and a thought, I want to keep my eyes on the road and The Way.