Like it or not, you were different from day one. You got your dad’s eyes and your mom’s nose and we won’t even ask about the rest. We all think that’s no big deal; it’s just who you are. However, like any other obvious characteristic you were born with (or without), you have to either choose to embrace it or try to change it. There are no other options.
Every day I see people who have decided they don’t like what they were born with. Whether it’s a wanna-be blonde with brunette roots or a porcelain doll with a bottled tan, we try so hard to be something we’re not because we think it’s better than what we are.
Last year, I was talking to a friend about his experiences in life. His parents were in ministry, he’d smuggled Bibles into Tibet with his dad, and he loved praise and worship music like he loved breathing. His life looked like a clean, beautiful expression of love for the Lord. One day he sent me a picture. The Hebrew symbols he’d sketched were really cool looking but when he told me they were for a tattoo, I was surprised. In some ways, it seemed perfectly consistent with the person I knew him to be but, in another way, it seemed like he was trying to be something he wasn’t.
My friend, like anyone I’ve talked to who has or wants a tattoo, felt a passionate, artistic urge to make a meaningful statement for the world to see. The concept seems sound and even praiseworthy. I understand making a statement or even a few of them; I do it every day physically and verbally (and, from what he told me, my friend did the same). So why would anyone who is already making a statement with their words and actions feel so strongly about making a statement with a tattoo? This isn’t a question of generational ethics and perceptions (as some people believe it to be), it’s just a question of logic. Scripture doesn’t explicitly state that this is wrong, unless you consider it self-mutilation. But, aside from that, in our personal drive for artistic expression, do we even question if we’re scribbling over God’s artwork? What about the statement HE’s already made with our bodies? Our lives, what we choose to say and do every day, are our canvas. Our bodies and all of nature is God’s.
That’s a new thought, isn’t it? Your body belongs to you but it’s a gift. It’s like Leonardo DaVinci himself gave you the Mona Lisa. You are the owner of the only copy in existence, a priceless artifact handed to you by the artist himself. Most of us don’t think of ourselves this way, of course. There are millions of other priceless paintings walking around. You’d think this would decrease the value (or maybe we just wish it would) but then why do we feel like we’re being pulled and pushed around all the time? It’s like a freakin tug-o-war and all we want to do is silence the voices trying to tell us who we are, who we’re not, and what we’re supposed to be.
Heaven and hell are still fighting over what we have, Heaven to redeem the value and hell to destroy it. If you think this is ridiculous, just look at how much stuff you’re encouraged to do to your body. Every advertisement wants you to fill it to obesity, starve it, stick it, cut it, pull it, hang it, hump it, pump it with drugs, drown it with chemicals, and the list goes on. And we think there’s no war? I’d argue that the greatest wars in this world aren’t fought with weapons and they have nothing to do with the possession of property or monetary wealth. Propaganda is powerful. It’s a battle for your mind because the only person who can truly devalue your work of art is you. So often we’re weak-willed; we’ll believe just about anything if we hear it enough.
So, what do we do? We bury ourselves in the truth so we won’t believe a lie.
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.