It is an honest and continual challenge for Christian (aka church) people to deal graciously and lovingly with those who are newly converted to the faith or who are marginal at best in their lifestyle. Russell Moore, in his book Onward, illustrates this well.
He tells the story of how he, a young boy growing up in a Mississippi Southern Baptist Church, was sitting one morning in service with his grandmother when a member of their church brought a guest. This guest, obviously unacquainted with church life, came in wearing a sleeveless shirt and sporting a tattoo of a woman on his arm who, shall we say, was immodestly attired.
People around him were shocked but none more so than young, impressionable Russell (now our director of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission). He nudged his granny to look in the direction of the visitor. His eyes were wide as he looked with as much indignation as an eight year old can muster.
That’s when his grandmother shocked him. She said, “Russell, we mustn’t judge this man. He may not know Christ yet.” And with that, Russell learned an important lesson… not about inking… but about grace and dealing with a lost world.
Russell watched this man who gave his heart to Christ, was baptized and then started coming to church with sleeves to cover the tattoo on his arm. As he grew in Christ, Russell noticed one day when the man wore short sleeves that he had altered the tattoo by adding a bikini to the figure. Then later it became a one-piece bathing suit. And though Russell didn’t attend the funeral, he imagined the tattoo was clothed in a plaid pant suit under the gentleman’s suit!
We are often far too quick to write people off by external appearances. Lost people and an unreached world will come to church bearing the marks and scars of their past. And while we are not as quick today to assume a person with a tattoo has lived a raucous past, (this is not a pro- or anti-tattoo post, by the way) our ability to look beyond externals when dealing with a lost world, whether at work or when they do come to church, is a needed part of our evangelism strategy.
And who knows? The next Billy Graham God raises up to win the next generation…
… may be sporting a tattoo!
For Meditation: If any man be in Christ he is a new creation…old things pass away and all things become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
For Reflection: Does you attitude reflect a judgmental, self-righteousness that is unbecoming of Christ or can you show the grace that was shown to you as you work around, live around, and reach out to a lost world?