GOOGLE “PICTURES OF TATTOOS.” UP ON THE SCREEN WILL COME MANY SURPRISING AND DISTURBING IMAGES. ALL SERVE AS PERSONAL TESTIMONIES.
What’s with tattoos? Everyone seems to have at least one. So far they are the fad of the twenty-first century. There was a time in recent history that only marines, merchant mariners, Tongan warriors, and the Yakuza had tattoos. Now tattoo parlors are everywhere. Young people are not the only ones sporting tattoos. It’s a reality across the age spectrum. Once you get one, it’s easy to get two, then three, and then the right arm, chest and leg. Their artfulness varies from strikingly beautiful to down right ugly, from the sacred and spiritually inspiring to the aberrant and wicked. What’s with all that?
I don’t have a tattoo, but I have questions starting with “why?” Why get a tattoo? What’s the purpose of a tattoo? Does it define us? Is it better to have than not have one? What’s the benefit? What’s the consequence of not having one? With aging, will tattoos loose their shape, become blurred, and lead to guessing what it was meant to say or look like in the first place?
I hold some settled views regarding the purpose of so much ink under the skin. There’s likely a long list of reasons, but regardless, aren’t tattoos a testimony, a proclamation, an attempt to declare a message as personal as the one tattooe? Do they not serve to part the curtain and allow others to peek at one’s values, priorities, hopes, and aspirations, fears, frustrations, and identities.
Inevitably, whether visible or hidden, they’re a conversation starter and often a source of pride (unless misspelled). Tattoos are a testimony.
They testify to what’s important, to the company we keep or want to impress, and with whom we identify. Here’s my biggest question: For a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, so what? Might their tattoo testimony start with their faith and desire to please God? For example, if you could ask every tattooed Christian if their tattoo was inspired by the holy spirit or derived from Christ’s life and teachings such as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and his proclamations: Blessed are the pure in heart, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, what would their story turn out to be? Jesus said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and to let our light shine so others may see our good deeds (read tattoos) and glorify the Father in heaven.
While I don’t plan to get a tattoo, I do plan to connect with people about their tattoo(s). They are terrific conversation starters like “I noticed your tattoo. How long have you had it? Do you have any others? Will you get another one? What do you want it to say about you? Does it have a message for others?” Tattoos are a starting point for meeting others and beginning a reciprocal conversation that can go somewhere special. If you are thinking about getting a visible tattoo, consider it a form of testimony. Could it proclaim something that helps another navigate life? Could one’s tattoos open up a space for sharing Christ to the glory to God?
Life is working in you . . . so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2Corinthians 4:12&15