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Christian Life

Why I Love My Tattoos…Even If My Grandma Doesn’t

By Kyle Partin

“I hope that is washable,” my grandmother said to me during a family gathering when I rolled up my sleeves to play with my nephew.

“No, sorry Grandma, it’s real.” In fact, it was my second tattoo that she was looking at. My first was on the same arm but hidden well enough with a long-sleeve shirt. Now there was no hiding, no covering, and that was exactly how I wanted it.

I know what you may be thinking—tattoos are wrong and God told us in Leviticus not to get them, right? Well, there is a lot to be said about what God was intending during his instruction in Leviticus 19. If we were to follow this to the letter, we would all be sinning if we were also wearing clothing cut from two separate cloths (which, let’s face it, would result in muumuus or denim pantsuits). We couldn’t eat medium-rare meat, nor could we cut our sideburns. (Ladies, your special crush is a sinner.) These and a long list of other things were deemed sinful actions to the Lord.

So why would I, a youth pastor at the time, go and purposefully get tattoos if I knew they were so detestable? Well, I studied and prayed about it. Then I studied more and prayed a ton. Basically, it comes down to why God even listed off Leviticus 19: to distinguish his people from all the rest of the world. A major theme from cover to cover of the Bible is God’s people being set apart. Not running with the crowd. Being sanctified through word and deed.

We are to be set apart from society and culture. People should look at us differently because of how we rejoice during tough times, give to the needy, pray for one another and thank the Lord for every meal.

Jesus asks us to look at the fruit of a person’s life, because there are so many “holy people” out there who may look the part, but are far from it. What does the fruit I am bearing say about me? For all intents and purposes, I was living as best I could in accordance with how Jesus instructed, and Romans 8:38 tells me that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So why did my grandma then ask me out to lunch a week later? God and I were cool, right?

During this lunch, she told me with tears in her eyes that she wasn’t able to sleep for three days because I had scarred my body like this. She called her sister and was encouraged to hear from me why I had done such a thing. “So, Kyle. Tell me why.”

Well, I personally don’t believe tattoos are a sin. I do have rules, though. This is not something to take lightly. I was very prayerful, methodical and purposeful about what I got tattooed on my body at the time and have now.

This isn’t me recommending you get one; it’s my personal testimony on my journey with the subject.

My first tattoo is a scripture: Mt. 16:25, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life for me shall find it.” I have been in love with this scripture for years. I wanted to get it tattooed for years! I will never forget when my youth pastor told our group, “BE A LOSER!” “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?” (Mt. 16:26)

A year and half later, I got my second tattoo. This was the one my grandmother saw on my forearm. It was one hand pulling another out of the “muck and mire,” as David writes in the Psalms. I wanted people to see it. To know that God had pulled me out of the depths of my sin and placed me on a solid foundation—His foundation of love and grace through Jesus Christ.

Why hide it? Why get something that means so much to me and cover it up? “Grandma, I got this as another tool that I hope and pray God uses for His glory.” Thankfully, I can honestly say it has. But it is not the only way I do ministry. I am weird; I like tattoos. I want to be that old wrinkly guy in the nursing home with mangled, discolored skin of what used to be a tattoo.

I have been able to use my tattoos as a witnessing tool and talk to people about Jesus in conversations where He otherwise never would have come up. People don’t usually get a tattoo unless it means something really powerful to them personally. They are able to tell me about theirs and I am able to full-on share the gospel when talking about mine. It has opened more doors than I can count to form relationships and connect with strangers in a genuine way.

My grandma still wasn’t thrilled, but she now had the understanding of why I got them and the knowledge that all the tattoos were blatantly spiritual. She still wasn’t happy, and I don’t think she will ever approve, but at least I know she won’t lose any more sleep over it.

Which brings me to this—my rules for tattoos:

  1. Have the idea drawn up and don’t change it for six months. If, after six months, you still love it, then you will be okay with it when you are 80 years old.
  1. Think about your future job. Will this tattoo placement hurt your future employment? You can cover things up, sure, but that skull and crossbones on your neck might not scream “CEO” or even “customer service specialist.”
  1. Your parents must approve, especially if you live under their roof. If you are on your own, I would still seek their consent.
  1. Draw it on yourself with a Sharpie, try on different outfits and go over scenarios. This is a forever thing; make sure you love it in the particular location it will be in.
  1. Last, make sure it will not affect your future relationships. Nothing says “stay away!” like an ex’s name tattooed on your boyfriend or girlfriend’s arm.
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6 Comments

  1. Broken Vessel

    Posted by Broken Vessel on October 20, 2015 at 19:03

    I loved this article and I’m happy to see it on PI! You’ve come a long way from your ”tattoos are trashy, and you get one, you’ll look trashy” days.

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by amybella on October 20, 2015 at 07:30

    I am going to preface this with the fact that I am 22 and have my welding degree and work in technical theater and am not supposed to wear rings to give some background. I am also very happily single and have never even been on a date by my own choice to give some perspective.
    So I guess I never grew up with people condemning tattoos. Almost no one in my family has one but it was never considered sinful. I never really wanted to get a tattoo but didn’t see a problem with someone else having one.
    That being said I WILL be getting one at some point. I would like to get my wedding ring tattooed on when I marry. It seems to be pretty popular now but I first heard about it fifteen or so years ago. It always reminded me of the permanence of marriage. You don’t get a tattoo that you don’t want on your body for the rest of your life. You don’t step into marriage lightly either. Both of my grandparents divorced so when my parents married they said divorce was never an option and I respect that very much.
    I guess for me I see a tattoo as a lifelong commitment. I had never found something that I wanted that permanently on my body. That is not to say I will never get one other than my wedding band. I appreciate the fact that it is a unique tool to be able to reach some that may not have spoken to him otherwise.

  3. goatluverr

    Posted by goatluverr on October 18, 2015 at 19:24

    This is different! Never heard it from this perspective before! My mom has one and it has sparked up mnay conversations i have got to participate in the resulted in sroeading the gospel. Some people just need a good conversation starter. It is still my rule ni to get one but i dont think of it as a sin unless you have the wrong motives!!

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by DaughterOfTheKing15 on October 18, 2015 at 12:03

    This was an interesting article. My family is pretty anti-tattoo, not really because of the Biblical aspect but because many tattoos look trashy and that some tattoos send the wrong message. While I personally wouldn’t get one for myself (don’t hold me on that), I don’t judge people who do. I think some tattoos can look really pretty. The only problem I have with tattoos is that some people get them just because they think it’s a pretty design or something. I would never ever get a tattoo unless it had a very deep meaning to me, like yours does.

    The only type of tattoo I would ever consider getting would be very small and in a place that people wouldn’t see. I would only do that if something had happened in my life that was very emotional, such as losing a close family member. That’s the only time I would think about it.

    One time I was standing behind a girl in line at a pet store who looked to be in her twenties. She had a really nice paw print tattoo on her back. Dogs are a really huge part of my life, there has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have one, so that one would be meaningful to me but I doubt I would get it. 🙂

  5. YellowBanana

    Posted by YellowBanana on October 17, 2015 at 06:09

    Tattoos are so unclassy. We can share the Gospel with others through our words and actions, not ink needled into the skin.
    Lead by example.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by LetsjumpintheTardis on October 20, 2015 at 07:45

      Not all tattoos are bad, and if there is classier ways of sharing the gosple they probably would only effect those who are classy. People clearly relate to this guy because of his tattoos, and I do not think that it is a bad way to spread the gosple. When you say classy you are saying that the gosple is classy, well sorry it is not. I can understand your dislike of tattoos but when a Christian has one that glorifies God it can give opportunities for the gosple to be spread.