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Father Gregory Boyle: Tattoos on the Heart

By July 29, 2015 4 Comments

TATTOOS ON THE HEART TITLE2Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest, has a wicked sense of humor and writes like Ann Lamott…only better. He has more tats than you can count but only because you can’t see them…they’re on his heart.

His writing is peppered with an eclectic mix of quips from Dillard, Shelley, Borg, Gandhi, Eckert, Rumi and Jesus. Boyle can make you laugh out loud while blowing up your preconceptions with his insights into the character of God. He has faced down leukemia and the barrel of a gun.

Boyle’s parish of over 20 years is in the capital of the gang capital of America – aptly named Boyle Heights, L.A.

Father “G,” as he is affectionately known, is at home in the barrios, detention camps, hospitals, morgues, and funeral homes. His acclaim has taken him from the Big house to the White House.Tattoos on the heart second

Not Much Makes Sense Outside of God

The cover doesn’t give it away, but the whole book is about God.Tattoos on the heart

Boyle says, “Not much in my life makes any sense outside of God. Certainly a place like “Homeboy Industries” is all folly and bad business unless the core of the endeavor seeks to imitate the kind of God one ought to believe in.” (page 21)

Read his book and see if you aren’t convinced of God’s total, unequivocal, unconditional, expansive, remarkable love.

5 Lessons On Love

1. Assume the answer to every question is compassion.

“Compassion is no fleeting, occasional emotion rising to the surface like eros or anger. It is full-throttled.” (page 63)

On his first day of teaching at Loyola High School in LA he asked a veteran teacher for her advice on how to deal with the homeboys. She advised him to learn all their names by the next day. “It’s more important that they know you know them, than that they know what you know.”

That’s compassion.

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2. Compassion stands in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than standing in judgment at how they carry it.

Boyle tells the story of a former member driving up to the church and starting a conversation. The now well-to-do man looked around at the gang members gathered by the bell tower, the homeless men and women being fed in great numbers in the parking lot, folks arriving for the AA and NA meetings and the ESL classes.

He shook his head and said to Boyle, “You know this used to be a church.”

Boyle responded, “You know most people around here think it’s finally a church.”Tattoos on the heart3

3. Compassion is giving a home to the outcast.

Boyle arrived at his parish one morning to find an overnight guest had spray-painted “wetback” on the front steps of the church.

He held a meeting later that morning with staff and said he would find someone to scrub the stairs clean. One of the ladies corrected him, “You will not scrub the stairs. If there is a member of our community who is disparaged because they are a wetback then we shall be proud to call ourselves a wetback church.”

“When we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments, our ceaseless withholding, and our constant exclusion, we have wandered into God’s own jurisdiction.”

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4. Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself.

“If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. Compassion means dismantling the barriers that exclude.” (page 75)

The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues but rather in standing in the right place with the outcast and those relegated to the margins. (page 72)

Tattoos on the heart bakery

5. Compassion is not “for” others, it is “with” others.

Jesus was one with us. He was not a man FOR others. He was a man WITH others.

Jesus didn’t seek the rights of lepers. He touched lepers before he got around to curing them.

He didn’t champion the cause of the outcast. He was the outcast.

“Jesus’ strategy is a simple one – he eats with people. Precisely to those paralyzed by toxic shame, Jesus says, ‘I will eat with you.’ He goes where Love has not yet arrived.” (page 70)tattoos on the heart homeboys

Watch Greg’s talk on TED.

APPLICATION: How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you? How does compassion occur to you? Please leave a comment below. Thank you.


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Bob Jones

Author Bob Jones

Pastor at North Pointe Community Church for 27 years. Happily married to Jocelyn for 38 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vinnie; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three gorgeous daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love being a pastor and inspiring faith in Jesus through communicating, blogging, counseling and coaching. I enjoy running, reading, writing and ball hockey. Fan of the Esks and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • CD Mayo says:

    Wow! I am reading this book. I’ll be buying a copy. In my heart, this is the compassion I believe God has for each one of us. So much more to say but I’ll end with THANK YOU for sharing this!

  • bob jones says:

    I’m glad you liked the post. You’ll have to get a copy of the book on Sunday. They will be sold at the Info Desk.

  • adena lowry says:

    Just sat and watched this video. Amazing. It’s so mind changing when you see others with eyes of compassion. We all need to remember this and look with the eyes of our hearts. My favourite part was when he said, “you tell people the truth and watch them become that truth” and “you can’t demonize people you know”. Everyone deserves forgiveness and love.

  • bob jones says:

    So glad you made it down to the bottom of the post and watched the TED Talk. Its concise, humorous, and hard-hitting. A homerun for me. Wanting North Pointe to be more and more of the culture of compassion. People like you make it happen.

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