Saturday, April 03, 2010
To Tattoo or not to Tattoo...
In light of my last post (Marked by Love, not Cutting-which btw we are still having podcast issues through our website update, sorry). I am answering a question posed on our God Answers website, where people can chat around Q&A!
Here's the Q:
Should Christians get tattoos or body piercings?
I’ve read a lot of discussion online about this in light of Leviticus 19:28…but it seems so legalistic. Jesus calls us to obedience and to Himself. I can see how we are called to put our focus on God and respect our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, but so much thinking seems old covenant.
What do you think on this issue?
Here's my A:
Our bodies are God's temple, and we are called to honor God with our body, says 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We are also encouraged to offer our body to God as worship in Romans 12:1-3, so one could definitely make the case that tattoos (which I'll focus on for this post, but piercings are included) are an expression of worship. That's where I'd stand. First, I'd make the case that we need to carefully ensure our heart is what is connected to how we use our body, as well as how we act, (our behavior whether it be our language, sexual conduct, or tattoos). Jesus chastised the religious leaders of the day with how they focused on judging the outward appearance/behavior and often neglected their inward heart condition and attitude, see Matthew 23:24-26. Jesus cares about what's in our heart because he says it affects what comes out of our mouth, so I'd say the same thing about tattoos. If our heart is to honor God that will be reflected in our "body art." Therefore I would encourage someone who desires to tattoo themselves with this caveat: that it honors God and is an extension of who they are, their worship. For those against it and worried about the judgment of others from scripture in Leviticus 19, I'd be very careful with that verse as the Levitical Law also forbid things like cutting hair and facial trimming (I'd be in big trouble), eating certain foods, and how women should deal with their menstruation cycles that all are "acceptable" for those that may be against tattoos today. So I say that this is a matter between God and the one desiring a tattoo, since there is no direct New Testament reference for or against it. We have freedom, we just mustn't use our freedom to sin (Galatians 5:13). And I do think that some body art could cause others to stumble so we must be careful (1 John 2;10 and Romans 14:21-22). This doesn't mean we ONLY need to get crosses and pictures of Jesus tattooed on us, either, but in my opinion, just ensure your tats evoke beauty, mystery, worship and in some way point to God.
I also know of some who have tattooed their body (many before Christ, but also some after coming to Him), and then been convicted by the Holy Spirit to get it removed. We also shouldn't use scripture to manipulate or justify the idea of tattoos either. I once heard someone trying to convince me that Paul had tattoos from Galatians 6:17 which says, "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body," which is clearly a reference to his scars of persecution and not tattoos. By the way, I have tattoos myself and I am planning my next one later this year. But in line with Romans 14:21-22 I will be careful to exert my (strong) opinions on others as I don't want to make others stumble. Paul said, "It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause a sister or brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves." This is obviously a short answer to what I think is a gray issue, which would be much more fun to talk about (and exchange tattoo showings) face to face! But the bottom line, I believe we are free to tattoo our bodies just like I am free to shave my sideburns and enjoy a nice prime rib steak.
For a more extensive article on this subject see:
I love how he calls it a "disputable" matter.
Now, besides if it's OK with God, there is a whole other conversation to be had about tattoos. It's it wise or foolish? Just google tattoos. I have to say some tats, again in my opinion are just plain dumb, and waste of skin space. I laughed, rolled my eyes, and felt sick looking at some of the choices people have made. Some, just plain creeped me out, I'll admit. But this is my western opinion. Some tattoos in the East are completely cultural. Another funny I saw was a tat twittered of Ashton Kutcher (by Mr. Kutcher himself), on a guy in Russia, even Ashton was a bit surprised by it. I wonder how many people look at their tattoo 5-10 years later and question their discernment. So make sure you know what you are getting yourself into!