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Christians have been debating since the time of Jesus about what is right living and what must

be avoided. You don't have to look farther than the New Testament for evidence of this. In Romans 13 and 14, Paul tells us to stop arguing about how others live out their faith. Instead he calls us to reach out to one another in love. "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat" (Rom. 14:10, NIV). Imagine a worship service. In the front row sits a straight-laced, clean-shaven man with his hands lifted high. He sings the words with expert timing. He knows the words by heart so he doesn't need to look at the screen; in fact he is even able to let his mind wander a little to the football game scheduled after the service. Meanwhile, a young man in the row behind has tattoos covering his arms and peeking out of his shirt collar. He also raises his hands. But instead of letting his mind wander, tears run down his cheeks as he completely loses himself in God's presence. Which offering of worship do you think God prefers? "But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Growing up as a pastor's kid, I have always felt that my decisions were scrutinized more than the other children around me. I had the eyes of the church watching me, wanting me to set an example for others. Knowing that my choices influenced those around me I did not take the decision to get my first tattoo lightly. I prayerfully searched the scriptures for direction. In my search I came across examples where God said He was more concerned about motivations of heart than actions. The parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee praying in the synagogue (see Luke 18:9-14) reminds us that when we pray it should be to communicate with God-not for the attention of onlookers. More than anything, Jesus is concerned with our motivation. He rebuked Peter in Matthew 16, even calling him Satan because he disagreed with Jesus about the suffering He had to endure. Not wanting Jesus to be killed seems like the right thing, but Peter was putting his selfish desires in front of the will of God. Motivation matters. Some Christians say tattoos are a defilement of the Lord's temple. I say motivation matters. Paul wrote: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). I personally don't see how a tattoo of a cross or a short prayer like the one across my ankles (which says, "Lord Guide My Steps") can possibly be dishonoring God or defiling His temple. I would be more concerned with the Christian who eats fast food five times a week. What is he doing to his temple? When strangers see my tattoos and ask, "What does that mean?" I tell them my tattoos serve as a

constant reminder that I have been forgiven. This reminds me that I need to forgive others. They also remind me that a step taken without Gods guidance isn't one worth taking, and that I need to walk with purpose and love during my short time here on earth. Motivation matters. Whatever action I take, I want to have the right motives. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). I plead with those who are judging people with tattoos. Look at your heart-and remember the words of Paul in Romans 14:13-14: "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean."