“Our new pastor has a tattoo,” observed one my parishioners to another as we were trimming back the shrubbery along the church parking lot.


The man seemed happy his pastor was “tatted” like him, so I told them both howI’d got it seven years ago to celebrate running two marathons. The small running man figure inspires me to stay fit as I enter my senior years. 

The tattoo is in an unassuming place, high above my elbow, only visible when my short sleeve hikes up.


I’ve had a few religious people already tell me how the Bible makes it clear that God forbids any person from having a tattoo imbedded in their flesh. “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print (tattoo) any marks upon you. (Leviticus 19:28).’”

When I mentioned it in a previous column, a reader urged me to “… publish a recanting of what you have said in an attempt to rectify the harm which you have done.”


Prior to joining the tattooed generation, I tended to assume, as some do, that tattoos are a sign of gang affiliation or a prison record.


For instance, some years ago I met a fellow in our Neonatal ICU with tattoos all over his face and neck. The neck tattoos were an inscription of some kind, but I didn’t want to get close enough to read it. In fact, I didn’t want to approach him at all.

Nevertheless, it was my job to visit parents in our NICU, so I swallowed hard and extended my usual offer for chaplain services. As I spoke, the man’s expression softened, and his face began to welcome me.


He immediately told me how important prayer was to him. In fact, he said, he’d just spent the last 30 minutes whispering Scriptures to his son, who weighed not much more than a pound.

I had assumed much about this man from his markings. If you’d told me he was a gang member, I would have more quickly believed you than if you’d contended that he was a Christian.

Yet he was a believer with a very gentle faith and countenance.

The Apostle Paul encountered people in the early church who fiercely assumed that no man could be a true follower of God unless he was properly marked. By “marked,” they meant the Hebraic tradition of circumcision.

These guys were teaching Gentile men to cut their privates. Yikes, I know you likely just spewed your Cheerios, but hang on for a minute.

Paul stood up to these surgical scoundrels and told them they were trying to out-god God by “loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors.”

“Don’t you see?” Paul asks in Romans 2. “It’s not the cut of a knife … It’s the mark of God on your heart ….”

If Paul were around today, I think he’d be telling us that tattoos, purple hair or even earrings out the wazoo don’t define who people are.  Only God can define a person.

Paul would say, “Ignore the marks on people’s arms, necks or other appendages. And get close enough to see the marks He’s placed on their hearts.”

By the way, when I raised my shirt sleeve to give the church member a better view of my tat, he questioned the quality.

“That’s a running man?”

“Uh yes,” I said, checking to be sure.

“It looks your running man has been flattened and “run over.”

“It’s blue,” observed the other. Looks more like the symbol of a handicap parking space.”

I can see now this church crew is gonna keep me humble.

Write to Norris at 10556 Combie Road, Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602. You can also purchase his books at this address. Read past columns at www.TheChaplain.net. Contact him at comment@thechaplain.net or via voicemail (843) 608-9715.

Norris Burkes
Author: Norris Burkes