Steve Rempe / 29 JAN 2015 – To go into prison is to be marked for life. Regardless of the time spent, the lessons learned, and the changes made, these men and women will forever be identified as prisoners—a “scarlet letter” firmly affixed upon them, and readily visible to all. Future employers, landlords, and even co-congregants will identify them first and foremost as “ex-cons,” and suspicion will guide their interactions.
And in some cases, these marks are more than metaphorical.
“Freedom Tattoos”—a program created by Pedagogium: The College of Social Sciences in Poland, is offering former prisoners in that country the opportunity to have tattoos they received during their time in prison covered with new, more appealing artwork. The ugly words and images created with makeshift implements during their incarceration are thus transformed into images that reflect their own personal metamorphosis.
An ad promoting the program features two women recently released from prison. One of the women, a young mother, has the word “vendetta” tattooed on the back of her neck, the product of time spent at a juvenile detention center. “Now I want to [cover this tattoo] for my children,” she says, “Because I love them. It’s simple.”
The video shows the women as they receive the new artwork. Both are visibly moved by the transformation, and the new possibilities that come with it. “The ‘vendetta’ is gone!” declares the young mother—a comment that could be as much about personal restoration as it is about the old tattoo.
It might be tempting for some to dismiss those like the women in the video as people who are now rightly paying for past mistakes, and that the physical marks received in prison are merely evidence of poor decisions of old. They have made their bed, as the old trope goes, now they must be content to lie in it, and whatever consequences ensue are the price to be paid for those decisions. For Christians, however, such a view lacks a broader perspective.
As human beings, we all bear the ugly mark of Adam. It might not be as visible to others as a prison tattoo, but it is every bit as damning. It identifies the bearer as a sinner and reveals a lifetime of poor decisions. Like a tattoo, is a permanent mark.
Fortunately, there is Someone who can transform our blemishes, covering them with a mark of redemption and forgiveness.
“From now on,” Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
Through the saving act of Christ’s crucifixion and the ongoing, transformative work of the Holy Spirit, Christians are no longer identified by their sinful pasts. Instead we are identified with Christ. The marks of the “old Adam” have been covered with the seal of the cross.
The need to be redeemed from a life of sin is palpable for those who have been convicted of criminal wrongdoing, but it is no less real for those of us who, by the grace of God, have managed to have stayed outside of prison walls. And, just as the women in the video embrace the hope of a new life outside the prison walls, we all can celebrate the promise of new life that is ours in Christ.
The vendetta is gone. No one can cause us trouble. We are redeemed. Thanks be to God!
Source: Prison Fellowship