Randy Mastre makes his living as an artist. With an eye for detail, he skillfully weaves together colors and patterns, creating striking designs. But this modern-day Rembrandt doesn't wield a paintbrush. He uses a needle. And the canvas he paints on is human skin.

Working from his tattoo parlor in Bismarck, N.D., the 35-year-old entrepreneur tattoos everything from skulls to roses to portraits of Jesus. He has been in the business for 15 years, and he sees it as both an art form and a ministry.

"I witness all the time," Mastre said. "When people come in, my job is not to judge them. But I will plant a seed--and if it grows, it grows."

Mastre is so committed to his cause that along with Daniel Ostrowski, a minister who runs a tattoo business in Wausau, Wis., he helped found the Christian Tattoo Association. Ostrowski is president of the group, which has united about 100 Christian tattoo artists for the purpose of reaching industry insiders and art enthusiasts with the love of Christ.

"God uses everybody, regardless of what they are doing for a living," Mastre says. "Unfortunately, tattoos got a bad rap because of seedy people in the industry."

The Christian community is perhaps the most notorious for giving tattoos a bad rap. Citing verses such as Leviticus 19:28, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you" (KJV), believers often pass judgment on those who make tattoos and those who wear them.

A closer look at the verse, however, reveals its true meaning. In context, this instruction was part of a larger list of moral and ceremonial laws that were given by God to separate His people from the idolatrous worship of surrounding nations. According to biblical scholars, the "marks" prohibited in this verse were made either by means of a hot iron, or sometimes by ink or paint, and were taken in honor of the dead or of an idol, or to pacify a demonic deity.

Others believe these marks refer to an ancient Egyptian practice in which individuals painted pictorial inscriptions on bodies so they would know where to go when they reached the afterlife.

Mastre believes tattoos as we know them today are simply a means of artful expression. "The word 'tattoo' is not in biblical manuscripts," he says. "This verse in Leviticus has nothing to do with tattoos."

Mastre refuses to do a tattoo, he says, if a person wants it for the evil or ritualistic meaning behind it. "The intent of the heart is what matters," he says.

So, would Jesus get a tattoo?

"He already has one," Mastre said. "Revelation 19:16 says, 'And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.'"

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