You know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the sweet-as-pie greeter who shares the best hugs on Sabbath mornings, but she seems to have forgotten the sweater that would cover her tattoos. I’m talking about the young man who has a nice haircut, is clean-shaven, and carries a Bible on his way to the young adult class. He said something nice when he shook your hand, but you aren’t sure what because you were focused on the tattoo on his arm. Was it there last time you saw him? Is it a new tattoo, and not from a past life? Why won’t he cover it up for church? I’m talking about the barista at your favorite cafe, the man who changed your oil at the auto shop, the teenager checking you out at the grocery line. If they stumbled into your church by chance or providence on Sabbath morning, would you mind their tattoos?
Is Perception Reality?
The perception that you have of individuals with tattoos can be a problem, especially if it is pre-conceived, if it’s a generalization, and if it is a judgement. In decades past there was a certain class of people who tattooed their bodies, but this is no longer the case. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to stand in a room and find one other person without a tattoo. So what type of people wear tattoos? Every type of person wears tattoos! A grieving son may get the name of his mother. Two best friends who have been through horrors together may get a meaningful matching tattoo. Servicemen and women may have a tattoo to commemorate or memorialize a fallen comrade.
Because tattoos are more plenteous than years past, does that mean we need to go out and get one? No. Does it mean that we should open up a tattoo parlor and start inking The Lord’s Prayer and crucifixes onto people’s skin and call it a ministry? No.
Where’s the Love?
I’ve had church members tell my husband or me that they disapprove of our sons sporting mohawks. They’re children–4, 6, and 8. They picked their hairstyle, they take care of their bodies, they listen to their parents (for the most part), and they innocently walk into church and endure dirty looks from others for their tiny human choices. I want to ask some of these people sometimes…do you think Jesus looks at my kids and grimaces the way you do?
In our family, we’re used to these looks. My kids have mohawks, my husband has tattoos. We’re okay with the looks. We can overlook the comments. We even expect them. I think my problem, and a lot of people’s problem is the love. Where’s the love? If someone comes in off the street with a face tattoo, are they going to get a smile or a grimace? Is a new stranger off the street going to get a smile because they don’t know any better–and we do?
Christ’s Way of Reaching People
Jesus Christ ministered to others in six steps of mingling with others. He desired their good. He sympathized with them, ministered to their needs, won their trust, and bade them to follow Him. When they followed Him, He made them fishers of men. One mistake that I see time and again is that we skip an important step! We try to get people to follow us, and Jesus, without first gaining their trust. We judge, roll our eyes, grimace, and whisper before we know them, before they know us. Instead of spreading love, instead of reaching people, we hurt feelings and push them away. So, is the tattooed Christian faking a love for Jesus? Are we faking love for others? Christ loved all, and he reached people with that love.