Home » Departments » Parting Words

Beyond skin-deep salvation

by Perry Engle

“Pastor P, check it out. I’m going to put you in my next tattoo.” It’s the type of comment a person, much less a church leader, doesn’t often get.

He’d gotten a number of tattoos since I’d last seen him, and now he was having one drawn up to look like a list of credits on a strip of movie film inked under his skin.

“I’m honored,” was about all I could think to say.

“You’ve had more influence on my life than anyone but Jesus.”

I realized he wasn’t kidding and that I really might end up imprinted in red or blue on this guy’s bicep, where people would forever ask who “Pastor Perry” was.

I can’t say I’ve ever aspired to being a tattoo on someone’s body, but it was a reminder of how indelibly our lives are imprinted on those who cross our paths. Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering just how much good I’ve done in my twenty years of preaching sermons, writing articles, counseling marriages, and administrating within the Church. I’ve wondered a lot about how much salvation has really taken hold in people’s messed up lives.

Truthfully, my friend hasn’t been doing all that well the past few years. By his own admission, life’s been tougher than he could have imagined. And even though Jesus gets top billing on his list of credits, his life has been marked more by disappointment than by discipleship.

It’s caused me to rethink my role in leading people to Christ. I’ve come to appreciate that getting people saved is just the first step along the way of helping them become truly converted. As someone once said, our job isn’t just getting sinners into heaven, but getting heaven into sinners as well.

How’s this done? Those new to the faith need to be immediately introduced to an intimate, abiding relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Ultimately, lives yielded to the Spirit grow in quality, depth, and fruitfulness. Those separated from Him will eventually wither and die.

The Bible says that all of us—tattooed and otherwise—need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It occurs to me that this is God’s way of saying that “being saved” is a whole lot more than just skin deep.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2008 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle is the bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Conferences of the BIC Church. He and his wife, Marta, and their three daughters (all currently tattoo- free) live in Ontario, Calif.

Tags:

More "Parting Words"

Fear and Peace

When the sky is falling, to whom do we turn?

Imagining a Church full of grace and truth

Lessons from conversations on homosexuality, the Gospel, and the BIC Church

Praying for rain in la-la land

Followers of Jesus need to take seriously the stewarding of the resources entrusted to us by God

Related articles

  • When the sky is falling, to whom do we turn?

  • Peeling back the labels to reveal the stories of our neighbors

  • The Brethren in Christ Church, along with many other churches, is in these days describing salvation more broadly than as primarily an assent to the question “Will you receive Jesus Christ into your life so that you can go to heaven?”

Comments

There are currently no comments for this story. Be the first!

Post new comment

Your email will not be made public.
Tip: You may use <strong> and <em> HTML tags if you want.
By clicking "save," I affirm that I have expressed my thoughts with civility, courtesy, and respect. I understand that while thoughtful disagreement is fine, personal attacks, prejudicial assumptions, and insensitive language are unacceptable and will not be published.