I just have to put it out there that I do not have any tattoos. Having lived through so many fads I know how something can seem so popular for a while and then in a few years you wonder what was the big deal. I do not know if tattoos are a fad. They are certainly nothing new, but when I was much younger I knew of no one with a tattoo. Now, however, tattoos are very common. Much of the time, when I see a tattoo, I tend to want to know what it is or what it says. What is so important to this person that they will display it on their body until they die? My purpose here is not to discuss or debate whether tattoos are biblical. (I am aware of tattoo debate based on Leviticus 19:28.) If that is not the purpose, then why bring up the topic of tattoos at all? Because God uses people different from me to humble me. None of us like to be humbled, but we know it needs to happen regularly. Lessons in humility can come at any time and in any place.
While I was sitting in the waiting room of an automobile dealership waiting for my vehicle service to be completed, a young man entered and sat down directly in my line of sight. I immediately noticed he had a tattoo on his upper left arm. It was just visible below his shirt sleeve. My first thought was “I bet this guy needs Jesus.” Did I think this because he had a tattoo? To my shame I must admit the tattoo probably played a significant role in that thought. Of course everyone in the waiting room needed Jesus, whether tattooed or not. The issue was this guy was different from me because he had a tattoo. I would never consider getting a tattoo. I know I’m not better than anyone else but my sinful flesh still occasionally passes judgment based on appearances (notwithstanding 1 Samuel 16:7). Fortunately, by God’s sanctifying grace, he has moved me past that in many areas. However, the process will not be complete until I see Jesus face to face. This was another step in that process.
I finally was able to make out the message of the tattoo. It said, “Psalm 25.” Simultaneously there was a sanctifying stab in my heart over my sin and a rejoicing in my heart for the grace God had shown this young man. Did the fact that he had Psalm 25 tattooed on his arm prove he loves Jesus? Of course it didn’t. If the tattoo had not been a Scripture reference would that have proved he was not a Christian? Again, the answer is no. However, I took out my iPad and read that psalm. Once I did, I knew it was highly unlikely an unbeliever would tattoo a reference to that psalm on their arm. So in this public place God privately humbled me. He reminded me again that I had no business getting into his business. Only he can judge the heart. Only he can regenerate a heart and tattoo his name there.
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
Psalm 25 (ESV)