Leviticus, Tattoos & Red Letters
I challenged them to break the attendance record for Easter Sunday this year--to exceed 850 in attendance online and in person at all three of our services. And if we did this... I vowed to get a tattoo of our church's logo on my leg, and get a haircut.
I realized before I issued it, that my challenge might be considered by some people as a "stunt." I get that. Overly church-y people, as a rule, are rather joyless about such things. They think that people should just come to church because they ought to come to church.
Their outreach strategies are working so very well, by the way.
I also realized that the "pitchfork and torches," wing of the overly church-y crowd might have something to say about my particular approach to outreach. They've made their presence known, to be sure---particularly by noting that tattoos are "sinful," and "forbidden" in the Bible.
Here's the problem, when you actually read the Bible you discover lots of things that are "forbidden" that most overly church-y people completely ignore.
Here are a few of them:
1. Round haircuts & Neatly Trimmed Beards (Leviticus 19:27) "...you shall not round off the side growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beards." You could also infer that a beardless man might also be "forbidden"
2. Bacon (Leviticus 11:8) "...you shall not eat of [pigs] flesh or touch their carcasses." Bummer.
3. Polyester or Any Other Fabric Blends (Leviticus 19:19) "...nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together." Try finding clothes that fit this category...
4. Women Wearing Gold and Getting Their Hair Did (I Timothy 2:9) "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments." This would have blown up the Southern Baptist Churches I've attended in the past... just sayin.
5. Your Wife Defending Your Life By Hitting An Attacker In The "Man" Section (Deuteronomy 25:11-12) "If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity." Nice.
This is literally the tip of the iceberg on weird things that the Bible bans--most of which are found in Leviticus and are part of ancient purity laws that were meant for a certain context and intended for a certain group of people.
And of course in Leviticus 19:28 there is a ban on cutting your body "for the dead" and putting tattoos on yourself.
What I love about overly church-y people is that they treat some verses in the Old Testament as if they were written in red letters, and ignore others.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about: In many versions of the Bible the words of Jesus are printed in red letters, signifying their importance.
Funny. I've noticed in my journeys that many of the overly church-y people who treat certain passages in Leviticus as though they were written in red letters, often ignore the actual red letters themselves. I know this because I've been one of those overly church-y people, and have to struggle mightily not to continue being one.
I would humbly suggest that if you are offended by the idea of a pastor getting a tattoo and a haircut to energize his church members to invite people to church who don't ordinarily attend church it might have more to do with your preferences and world view than your beliefs about the Bible.
Using Scripture out of context to prop up our preferences and worldview is a pointless and cyclical exercise. Trust me. I've been "hoisted on my own petard" more than once in that regard.
In the Book of Acts there is this great moment when James, the brother of Jesus, stands up to address a church meeting where the apostles were debating whether to make Gentile (non-Jewish) Christian believers convert to Judaism and keep the laws from Leviticus. "Brothers," he says to them, "we should not make it harder for these people to accept the Gospel. Let them abstain from immorality and refrain from eating food offered to idols, and let that be enough."
Listen, if ONE PERSON encounters Jesus and has their life transformed because of some stupid thing I did to introduce them to Him...
It will be worth it.