Residents of Lubbock, Tex., are in an uproar over controversial new billboards that depict Jesus covered in tattoos promoting, a Christian outreach group.

Jesus Tattoo has covered Lubbock with 59 billboards of Jesus covered in tattoos of words such as ‘outcast’ and ‘addicted,’ and, while the image of Jesus covered in tattoos is causing a stir, the group insists that it is not trying to undermine Jesus, but is attempting to show that Jesus looks beyond 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,” Ashleigh Sawyer, media relations coordinator of Jesus Tattoo, told the Christian Post.

Sawyer expressed the hope that the controversy will cause the movement, which is unaffiliated with any particular faith or church, to spread across the country.

“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,” Sawyer added.

On their website, Jesus Tattoo has a six minute video that better depicts the nature of the tattooed Jesus seen in the billboards. In the video, Jesus is a tattoo artists who transforms the tattoos of others (their negative traits, such as ‘addiction’) into positive messages of love and understanding, taking on their negative tattoos as his own.

Some local Lubbock residents approved of the billboards and the message of Jesus Tattoo, including senior pastor at the Lubbock Southcrest Baptist Church, David Wilson.

“I thought it was cleverly done because, basically, it’s a visual of Jesus taking the sins of people and covering them and taking them from an outcast or something and giving them a new start, which is what the gospel is about,” Wilson told ABC News.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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