Controversial Issues - Part 1: Tattoos and Piercings
Many Christians these days are getting tattoos, piercings, and doing other "looked down upon" activities like smoking, and while a number of Christians see nothing wrong with these things, there are a great number that do. In this article series I'm going to explain why I believe that we as Christians should rather keep away from such things.
In this first article, I'm going to be talking about tattoos and piercings.
28Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.
1The LORD said to Moses, 2"Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
1 Peter 1:15-16
Many people have avoided getting tattoos or various piercings because of the first verse listed here. This is one of the laws that God laid down for the Israelites as they settled into the Promised Land. While this might sound like a silly command, with not much sense behind it, God had a reason for it.
Many of the nations surrounding the Israelites used to tattoo their bodies or cut and pierce themselves as a form of worship to their gods. One of God's main aims in all His laws of the Old Testament was to cause the Israelites to behave differently from the nations around them. God wanted to use the Israelites as an example to all the people of the earth, and thus He needed people who would form a good example by the way they lived and the things they did, much like God calls us as Christians to be different in order to witness to those around us.
Obeying God's laws was also the way the Israelites showed that they were dedicated to God. They wanted to please God and show Him that they wanted to live life His way, and the best way to do that was to obey His laws.
God calls us to be different, just like He was calling the Israelites to be different. In addition to this, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and God instructs us to look after our bodies, and to respect them.
I myself will not be getting any tattoos because it's a way of showing people that I'm dedicated to God. It's a sign of respect for my body, and toward God, and it's a way of being holy for God. I'm His property, not my own. If I get a tattoo, it's not my body I'm drawing on, it's His.
One has to also remember that tattoos are still used as a form of worship today. Satanists often mark their bodies in obediance and worship to Satan.
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial.
1 Corinthians 6:12
32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:32-33
I've come across a number of reasonings as to why it's OK for a Christian to get a tattoo, and I'd like to discuss some of them here, and why I believe that they are not in accordance with the Scriptures.
Well, most folks don't have tattoos, and it's such a nice design, I'm sure I'll be adorning my body.
As great as that reasoning sounds, it has a problem: Most folks these days still regard tattoos as wrong, unbiblical, or instantly write you off as "belonging to the wrong crowd."
As Christians we have to be very careful of the image we convey to others. We need to be blameless in other people's sight, we need to be a Godly example to others. Walking around in today's still fairly anti-tattoo culture is more harmful than helpful to your image as a Christian. So while it might be permissible, is it beneficial?
Also remember that not everyone is a seasoned, mature Christian. We need to take other's maturity and backgrounds into account in our interactions with brothers and sisters in Christ. We don't want something we've done to cause someone else to go and sin.
I'm going to get a Christian tattoo and use it to witness to others.
This is a very noble reasoning, one that will have folks hard-pressed to refute. A "Christian" tattoo can sometimes be useful, but it can also be very harmful. I think that unfortunately most times this falls into the "harmful" category more than the "useful" category.
As I've discussed in the previous reasoning, there are a few factors one has to take into account, like social perceptions, other Christians' maturity and whether or not it is a good witness.
Another factor to take into account is the "worship" factor. I mentioned that cults and religions in modern times still use tattoos in a spiritual sense, so it may be unwise to try to use a tattoo as a method of evangelism.
Finally, while this reasoning is filled with good intentions, living your life according to God's laws is a bigger and better witness. You will have more opportunity to tell folks what you believe when you don't lie, cheat, swear or get angry.
Because of Jesus, all those Old Testament laws don't apply anymore.
Unfortunately, this reasoning shows a lack of Bible knowledge on the part of the reasoner. Jesus Himself told us that He hadn't come to abolish the Old Testament laws, but to fulfill them.
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus makes an interesting point here - He basically says that God's law is still valid. In fact, He says that those who keep God's law will be rewarded in heaven. There are certain traditions that we as Christians no longer need to practice (like the sacrifices, for instance) because Jesus fulfilled them (He became the ultimate sacrifice), but a large portion of God's law is still valid and still applicable today.
I've illustrated some Biblical reasoning behind not getting a tattoo or a piercing (beyond earrings on girls). I hope this prompts folks to think long and hard about whether or not to get a tattoo, and what sort of effect it'll have on them, their friends, their peers, and their local community.
In part 2 of this article, I'll look at smoking and drinking.