by Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor
Ok, I’ll be honest, I am not a tattoo guy. I’m not into piercings either. If you are, I hope you will kickstart your compassion towards me and cut me a little slack for being old. Maybe it’s generational. He gave me freckles and I’m good with that. There is just such a permanence about the whole idea… I pull back from the thought.
Engraving is the same way. There’s an old pastor’s joke: “What do you call it when a pastor has his name engraved on the side of the church building?” A: “Job security.” When something is engraved, like something tattooed, it is there for good.
But I have one notable exception to my non-permanent-mark-rule. It comes from the heart of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3.
Paul wrote back to the church in Corinth a second time in the same year to challenge heretics who had come from Jerusalem with false teaching. Included in their “pitch” was that they had supposed “letters of recommendation” from the apostles. They challenged whether Paul was really to be trusted as a true agent of God.
Paul responded brilliantly:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation… 2 Cor. 3:1-2
Paul’s point is, “I don’t need a letter of recommendation from Jerusalem. YOU are my letter of recommendation to you. Look at what God did in your hearts through my ministry!” It was through Paul that the church was planted in Corinth to begin with. And then he spent 18 months there, building into people’s lives. That ought to qualify for his credentials.
But then he goes on to describe what God did through him in their lives. In v. 3 he says:
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
What Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 3:3 is what genuine, New Testament, Spirit-filled ministry looks like. Through Paul’s ministry, the Holy Spirit “wrote” Himself on the hearts of the Corinthians. More than that, the word “write” here is a strong form of the verb and actually means, “To engrave.” Through Paul’s ministry, the Holy Spirit “engraved” God on the hearts of the Corinthian Christians. As a result, they loved God from the heart out, and wanted Him and served Him. THAT is true ministry.
So what does this have to do with tattoos? Go back to verse 2. Paul was careful to say that it was not his job to engrave God on the Corinthian’s hearts… that was the Holy Spirit’s job. Paul preached and prayed and taught and loved people, and through Him the Holy Spirit worked.
However the Spirit worked, not only through Paul’s actions, but also his attachment to the Corinthians. Read v. 2 again closely:
You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
As Paul was used by the Holy Spirit to engrave God on the Corinthians’ hearts, God was busy engraving the Corinthians on Paul’s heart. Let that sink in. It is not our job to engrave God in people’s hearts. That’s His job. It is our job to let God engrave people on our hearts! When someone is “engraved” on my heart, I love them, I care about them. My welfare is now tied into theirs so that if they aren’t good, I’m not good either! THAT is a permanent mark I pray God engraves on me every day.
I share this as part of our growing as listeners because the READ strategy is not just a technique… it is skillfully loving people!