“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven...Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:32-33, 37-39
It wasn't that long ago that carnivals in America featured tattooed ladies in their so-called freak shows. While many people landed in carnival sideshows as a result of a birth defect or some physical abnormality or exception, this wasn't the case with tattooed ladies. They chose their physical abnormality and even endured pain to make their bodies permanently different. Now I am not trying to hold these women up as examples to live by, but if nothing else you have to respect their resolve. There were literally covered in tattoos in a culture that disapproved. They were permanently marked by their love of this lifestyle and they made no attempt to hide it.
In an odd sort of way, this reminds me of Christ. I know it is an unorthodox comparison, but stay with me. Like these ladies, Christ was permanently marked by His love. Even now as He sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, Christ still bears the scars in His body that prove His love for you. He made no attempt to hide this after His resurrection (John 20:24-29). On the contrary, His scars are trophies of His great victory over sin. These precious scars proclaim His glory to the whole world. In the same way a Christian's life ought to be permanently marked by his or her love for God. A person that is truly changed by the dumb-foundingly amazing love of God that he or she encounters in Christ should be irreparably changed. "Like a tattoo that can be seen at all times,"* Christians should be permanently marked by a changed life that is constantly visible.
In the above passage of Scripture Christ is sending his twelve disciples out to minister. He has already told them that He is sending them out like "sheep among wolves" (Matthew 10:16) and that they will be beaten and arrested on His account (Matthew 10:17-19). He even says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). He isn't speaking of the Devil here, for only God has the power to cast into Hell. So Jesus makes clear that neither beating, nor threat of arrest, nor even death is a reason for a disciple of His to deny his commitment to Him. So imagine what He will say one day when you stand before Him and admit that you claimed to follow Him but were too scared to acknowledge Him publicly because you didn't want to be labeled a "freak" by your culture. What I wouldn't give for Christians today to have even half the backbone that these tattooed ladies had! Christ wasn't ashamed to be permanently marked by His love for you. How dare you be ashamed for your life to be publicly marked by your love for Him? Stop leading a double life. You should be as obviously Christian everyday of the week in every situation as you are on Sunday in church.
But there is good news! Repentance is still available. Peter himself, the rock of the early church denied Christ, but was restored after repenting (John 18:15-26 & John 21). If today, the Lord has convicted you that you are leading a double life, examine your faith, repent, and proudly wear the marks of the Christian life. A public confession of Jesus is required for salvation (Romans 10:9 & Acts 2:38). If you are unwilling to claim Christ publicly, then He will not claim you as His own either.
For further reading...
- Matthew 10- Check out the entire passage. It is a challenging read.
- John 18:15-26 & John 21- Read Peter's story of redemption.
*The title of this post and some of the rough concepts in it were loosely inspired by a youth Bible study series that I received for free entitled Inked: Marked for Life. You can learn more about this study here.