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.
I like your exploration of this and the cultural distinctions and/or purpose of the tattoo. I have several young friends who have tattoos to cover up the scars that came from cutting; God doesn’t want them to live in shame. But I have other young friends kept from jobs (even the military) because of tattoos. Nice job!
Thank you, Billie Jo. My daughter sent me the article, which made me indignant and I wrote a bunch of that stuff to her on facebook and decided it would be a good subject for teens. Satan is busy throwing shame at us, we don’t need to do it to each other.
I’ve been meaning to get tattoos for quite a while. One on my ring finger on my left hand. A rose ment for the love of my life who i havn’t found yet but hope to in the future. I also would like to get a couple tattoos of insparational quotes on my wrists to remind me never to never cut again. Growing up in a super mormon family, tattoo’s were always frowned upon. When my cousin got a navy tattoo he was riticuled and he felt guilty about it. I don’t think i would feel bad getting a tattoo myself unless my family made me feel ashamed about it like they did to my cousin. My only concern is that if i get a tattoo it could be a sin. I know god loves me, no matter what i do in my mortal life but i have a fear of not being able to go to heaven because of it. It might be an irrational fear but what do you think? Your article really moved me and I know everyones situation is different, but do you have any thoughts on mine?
Cat, I believe that this is between you and God. Prayerfully consider your motives. I believe yours are pure, as were mine. I have since gotten a second tattoo with a scripture and Jesus Christ. I DO NOT in any way believe this would keep you from Heaven. Our God is not like that. Do you love Him? Do you seek to honor Him with your choices including this one? What more can you do than that? God bless you, sister.
Its interesting to see some Christians worrying about tattoos. I’m not worried about them. The tattoos are from the same section of Leviticus that claims that homosexuality is wrong. I think that Christ essentially did not require us to follow the old laws – which laws include not having two kinds of cloth in a garment, tattoos, not eating certain foods, and homosexuality. As foretold in John 16, the Holy Spirit has given us new information about gays and lesbians when we were able to bear it – through the interpretation of scientific investigation. But then what do I know? I’m an Episcopalian – so I’m a heretic headed directly for hell in most of your eyes.
Anybody that believes there is a God that judges you based on weather or not you have tattoos is a fool with a sub par frontal lobe. The invisible man in the sky could give a shit. If I’m wrong, he will take me tonight. He won’t dare!
I have debated getting a small cross tattooed on my shoulder. But my standard rule is ” I get all my marks and scars the old fashioned way, by ACCIDENT!”. So I haven’t. Pagans abound today though. I know a guy at work whose tat says. “there is no blood higher then mine”. I consider that blasphemy, and a tat that keeps you from heaven.