Another hot button topic these days is the subject of tattoos and should Christians be indulging in body art. My daughter sent me an article on Facebook from the website of the United Church of God. It is in answer to the question, “What does the Bible say about getting tattoos?”
In the answer portion it is said that modern tattooing is “body art” and that the Bible does not address body art. There is a reference given to a passage from Leviticus 19:28 – “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” Interestingly enough, Leviticus 19 also says, in part, “Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. Do not cut the hair on the sides of your heads.” Leviticus 19:19, 27
The author goes on to say that “scholars believe this refers to the practice of mourning the dead.” He goes on to say that Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary states that the Hebrews were not allowed to cut or mark their bodies because that is what the pagan peoples around them did as part of their idol worship. http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-does-bible-say-about-getting-tattoos
There are several more scriptures cited, but I think you get the drift of how this is going. Finally the author speaks of the fact that Christians are supposed to come out of the world and be separate, and then advises against Christians getting a tattoo, with a caveat at the end saying a tattoo gotten before salvation does not require removal.
I suspect you already have an inkling of my position on this issue, so before I rebut, let me say that the tone of this article is not in any way judgmental or inflammatory. I believe, based on the verbiage used, that this author is simply stating his position, trying to answer in a helpful manner, and backing it up with scriptures. While some pervert the Word of God for their own purpose, this is not what is going on here. The comments are a different matter! Some commented that even “religious” tattoos are pagan symbols.
Now, having said that, here is my take on this issue, I do not equate the scriptures cited as a prohibition of modern tattooing. I think that interpretation is a stretch. I don’t believe in making the Word of God say something to back up my position that is not clearly stated (remember that I am not accusing this author of that at all). I suppose what bothers me the most is the last line stating that it’s okay to have a tattoo if you got it before salvation.
It is my intention to get my first tattoo soon. It will be a treble clef intertwined with a cross with a small open heart in the middle of the cross. Part of my motive is to declare without words that I am a Christian. I wear a cross necklace for the same reason. I don’t worship my necklace (or the actual cross as it is only a symbol); I worship God. I won’t worship my tattoo or bow down to it. The Holy Spirit is alive in me. If He is displeased, I know it. Would our God of love disown us for having a tattoo? Not the God of my Bible and of my heart. But everyone has to choose for themselves. If you feel convicted by the Holy Spirit not to get a tattoo, that’s for you, and you should not.
Also, to me this smacks of a legalistic, Pharisaical position (on the part of the commenters). The Bible says that the Pharisees piled so many rules on the people, no one could keep them. No one can keep all the 10 commandments, and they were piling on more! Also, my Bible says God is no respecter of persons, meaning He treats everyone the same, so if one is pardoned for having a tattoo before he was a Christian, is not everyone forgiven? If I get a tattoo in good faith that I am not sinning, when I meet Jesus is he going to say, “Well, you shouldn’t have gotten that tattoo, so you’re out?”
I will have a glorified body in Heaven also, and I am sure my tattoo, and all my scars, will be gone. When the Gentiles began to hear about Jesus and receive salvation, the Jews said they had to be circumcised. Paul said, “No, they don’t!” (You don’t even have to be baptized to be saved.) People said, if you eat meat sacrificed to an idol, you are indulging in a pagan ritual. Paul said an idol is nothing but wood and stone and you can eat what you want, with the exception of causing someone else to stumble. If getting a tattoo will cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble, that would be something to consider. “Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
The Bottom Line is God is not a God of anger and judgment in the human sense. Yes, He is the Righteous Judge and He does have anger, but not in the sense of looking to punish someone. God loves you more than you will ever know – tattoos and all.