New Testing Phase

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Theology Of Tattoos… Should a Christian get one?

OK I wrote this before our first session, but was unable to post it till now, But I felt it was appropriate to keep the original structure and personal comments, even though the conference is over. I hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

We have arrived in Joburg and set up digs at Kerry’s Aunt house. I am looking forward to the first session which starts a little later. We had an enjoyable trip, which seemed to go short, considering we started at 4am. We had an interesting debate about tattoos. One argument is that we (as Christians) should never get a tattoo because your body is actually God’s body. That argument isn’t bad but it needs considerable filling out before I can accept it.

g_1484343430My personal view is fairly comprehensive “what does the bible say about this topic.” In Leviticus the Law of Moses states that a person should not cut themselves or give themselves tattoos Lev 19:28. The context of the verse is that the Jews were not to imitate the pagan peoples around them, part of which was cutting themselves and giving themselves tattoos for “the dead”

However, Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4) and, except for what is repeated in the New Testament, it no longer applies to us directly. We can still draw principles from it, in this case, ‘do not act like a pagan.’ With that principle in mind let us now examine if a Christian can get a tattoo.

  1. The bible commands that people, especially women, should dress modestly, The point being, don’t dress in such a way that people are distracted by or attracted to your body. This defiantly extends to tattoos. The issue is doubly important in that tattoos are permanent. Does the tattoo you want to get draw attention to body? In most cases the answer to that question is yes, by their very nature, a tattoo (being on your skin) will draw attention to your body, and is thus immodest. But (and this is a big but) it doesn’t always. For example, a tattoo always covered by a shirt is not immodest; very few people should even know that it is there. In this case, as an example, it is not immodest.
  2. 1 Corinthians calls the body, ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19) For the Christian then, does a tattoo somehow defile that temple. In the verse, defilement happens in a sexual way “should we mix the temple of the Hoy Spirit with a prostitute?” 1 Corinthians 6:15 stated answer NEVER. But does that mean we can just get tattoos? I’m inclined to think yes if you have already gotten past point 1 about modesty. Paul talks about how he disregards his body, how it will perish, and we will get a new one. The next sentence about how you are not your own is not referring to tattoos (or something similar) but rather how your body is Christ’s to do with, what He wills. That may or may not include a tattoo.
  3. Christian liberty is this. “All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23) In Christ, the Law has been fulfilled in Jesus, this means, that unless the New Testament specifically commands against something, a Christian has liberty to participate in that act, BUT that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea. For example does your context allow you to have a tattoo? If you lived in a town where only Satanists had tattoos and that that was the way you could tell if you were a Satanist or not. Then you come along, and with Christian liberty, get a tattoo. It would probably destroy your witness and have adverse social connotations. It’s the same with Paul’s admonition against women having braided hair, at that city, only prostitutes dressed like that; a Christian isn’t to taint their testimony by dressing like a prostitute. Same with tattoos.
  4. Is it a good use of your money? This is a lesser point, but an important one, as stewards of God’s money.
  5. Does your conscience allow it? This is ultimately the bottom line. If the tattoo is modest, and not going to destroy your Christian witness, but your conscience says no, THEN DON’T GET ONE. It is sin to go against your conscience. On the other hand, if you in good conscience can get one, and its modest, and not destroying your witness, or it isn’t bad stewardship, and YOU WANT ONE, then go get one. Or don’t, People these days assume that if you don’t have a moral objection to tattoos, then you automatically should have one. This is not true, many people don’t have any and are quite happy without one, so why should they just go out and get one then? Just because Paul in Christ could now eat bacon, doesn’t mean that he had to eat pork on every possible occasion, it just shouldn’t be a big deal.

To conclude, tattoos are a conscience issue, but one that shouldn’t be flaunted. Remember that they are permanent only till we get new bodies, then they will perish along with the rest of our old bodies. After that rabbit trail, I am now going to go and enjoy the conference on Heaven and Hell.

Soli Deo gloria

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