An anonymous group that aims to spread the message of God's love through their campaign, "Jesus Tattoo," erected 59 billboards throughout Lubbock, Texas, depicting the image of Jesus Christ clad in tattoos with the words "addicted" and "depressed," among other negative descriptions.
The idea behind the campaign is to share Jesus' love and make it known that it can change people despite their labels.
"The message is a simple one, Jesus' love is transformative. He loves us unconditionally and no matter what you've been marked with, faith in Him and love for others will transform us," said Ashleigh Sawyer, media relations coordinator for Jesus Tattoo.
Sawyer says the group is not affiliated with any particular organization, but rather they are a group "humbled by Jesus' love" who hope to convey the "greatest love story of all time."
The movement's website, jesustattoo.org, features a video in which a man resembling Jesus acts as a tattoo artist in a basement. During the video, people from all walks of life enter the room expecting him to remove their tattoos that include words that describe their situations as helpless individuals. He then takes to their forearms and wrists and replaces their original markings with words like, "accepted," "brave" and "humble."
The video then focuses on the character that plays both Jesus and a tattoo artist as he gets up from his seat to take his shirt off which then displays all the tattoos on his body that he just removed from the individuals. The takeaway message is that Jesus takes people's burdens while offering his love and grace in exchange.
Sawyer says the response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive although some initially are taken aback by the image of Jesus with tattoos while others immediately understand what it represents.
"We're finding that those who visit the website and watch the video come to understand the message of the campaign. Certainly, like with all deeply personal relationships, not everyone approves of the image of Jesus with tattoos, but we welcome the controversy because we understand that a dialogue on the issue is the best way to spread the message," said Sawyer.
She added, "We simply want to share the story with as many people as possible in a way that's relevant and appealing to both the churched and unchurched."
Although the movement launched in Lubbock, Texas, the group hopes it will spread into other cities across the nation and even internationally.