Justin Bieber boasts a tattoo count of 50 plus. He has so many tattoos that MTV news once made an interactive "Justin Bieber Tat Map" allowing enthusiastic fans to discover the details of Justin Bieber's ink—oh, the magic of the internet.
The animated map is tens of tats behind, but this month it became decidedly outdated when Justin added a small cross tattoo to a previously clean area of his body, his face.
Jonboy, the artist who tattooed Justin's face, told Us, “Justin came in last night and decided on a small cross near the corner of his eye. It represents his journey in finding purpose with God.”
The cross on his face isn't Justin's first religious tattoo. Alongside a jester, a koi fish, and his mother's eye are tattoos of a huge cross, Psalm 119:105, and the word "forgive" — which, according to the Tat Map, was done on an airplane at 40,000 feet by tattoo artist Bang Bang.
We could debate the wisdom of getting a facial tattoo, because, well, it's a tattoo on his face. But regardless of how we feel about the placement, the reason for the tiny cross points us to a truth about humanity: we are forgetful people who require physical reminders.
This dynamic of forgetfulness and physical reminder isn’t Justin Bieber’s idea. Throughout scripture, God instructs his people to reorder their physical world in a variety of ways as a reminder of who he is and what he has done. Let's look at a few examples:
God prescribed bodily remembrance.
He commanded circumcision and explained that this bodily change was to be a "permanent reminder" of his covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:13).
God commanded the Israelites to create structures of remembrance.
When the Israelites miraculously crossed through the Jordan into the promised land they were told to take stones from the river into their camp. Joshua proclaims, "These stones will be a reminder to you, a lasting memorial for the Israelites." (Josh 4:6-7)
God instituted systems for remembrance.
The writer of Hebrews tells us the Old Testament sacrifices are "a reminder of sin" (Heb 10:3). When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said, "Do this in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:19).
We still need physical reminders today. Although our histories are full of memorable moments, our hearts and minds are often more like sieves than sponges. An unbelieving friend confesses Christ, the Word calls us to repentance of a long-embraced sin of anger, and our community supports us through the death of a parent . . . then time passes, and we simply forget.
Life goes on, as they say, and in life's going it leaves behind the memory of the very things that are meant to direct the journey.
It’s unlikely we will sport a tiny cross below our eye anytime soon, or ever, but it may be prudent to re-order our world in other ways. Is there a daily system of remembrance you could institute? An entry from The Book of Common Prayer could be memorized and recited while you wash your hair in the morning. Is there a structure of remembrance you need to erect? A particular figure or picture that could stand as a lasting memorial on your office desk. Maybe you need a physical reminder. A bracelet, a haircut, or just a different iPhone lock screen picture.
A face tattoo may be over the top. It may be too flashy. Maybe it's a stunt. Maybe it's just downright ridiculous. But maybe that little cross is exactly what a young man in the throes of stardom needs to see in mirrors and magazines because, as we all know, he is forgetful.
In many ways, like it or not, we are just like Justin. Our physical world needs reorganizing so that it may remind us of who God is and what God has done because we are forgetful too.