So. I just got a tattoo. I was going to keep it to myself and just let people see it as and when but I feel compelled to write about it. And the reason? Well before getting it done I did a bit of research via the power of google for Christian designs. I found some great things, but I also found a whole load of judgemental claptrap from people claiming to be the authority on Christian sin as to why you are pretty much going to hell if you get one.
Ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight. If you google ‘what does the bible say about tattoos?’ you get a load of posts taking one Old Testament scripture and using it to justify the view that it is wrong. Note, Old Testament, not new. Pre-new covenant, pre-Jesus – the fulfilment of the law. Hysterically I love how one bloke noted in his diatribe on the sin of tattooing, piercing and numerous other things, that ‘When I was a young Christian, I had numerous sins that I had to deal with. Two of them were smoking and criticising others…’ Clearly God hasn’t dealt with the criticising others bit yet then…
So if you are a Christian considering getting a tattoo, here’s two things people will undoubtedly say to you and some responses. And if you have the time read this post which is the best I’ve read, along with a load of comments which are also worth reading
1. The Bible says tattoos are wrong.
Yes, it does, in one verse in Leviticus 19:28
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
Two responses here. Firstly, this is under the Levitical law. Jesus came to fulfill the law which is why as Christians we don’t adhere to these laws anymore. The law was about the people having a relationship with God, all of the laws were about keeping people holy and pure, free of sin so they could have a relationship with God. However now, we have Jesus to facilitate our relationship with the Father. It is through him and because of what he did on the cross that we get to call God our Father.
Anyone suggesting that a Levitical law is valid today is living under the old covenant, ie: forgetting about what Jesus did for us. In fact this is so fundamental I honestly don’t know why people keep bringing up OT scriptures for specific things today and saying we need to adhere to them. My OT biblical studies tutor once said that everything in the OT points to Jesus. So we have to view it through that lens, you cannot read the OT without him in mind.
However, if you must do that, then I fully expect you to follow all the commands in Numbers and all the Levitical laws not just picking those that suit you.
For example, your son has fallen over and gashed his knee and you clean up the cut – you must sacrifice a lamb or goat to make up for your sin of uncleanliness (Leviticus 5). Or, have you ever worn a Polycotton shirt? Wool blend jumper? (Leviticus 19:19) then you are sinning against the Lord. Enjoy a nice rare steak? (Lev 19:26) Yup that too. Cut your hair, shaved (Lev 19:27), said something bad about your parents (Lev 20:9) and frankly what teenager hasn’t? – bad news for you, you get the death penalty… and on the list goes. In actual fact there isn’t a specified punishment for getting a tattoo according to the OT anyway.
Now, look I’d be lying if I said I had never taken a scripture out of context to make a point, we all do it to some extent, but seriously, do your homework people! Whether it’s on this issue or any other, you need to know what the bible actually says and why.
2. Your body is a temple.
Hurrah a New Testament scripture! (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Well yes this is true, however I would point out that this is another scripture taken out of context as it’s actually referring to sexual immorality, and as one of Paul’s letters is addressing something of relevance specifically to the church at Corinth.
However, yes this is a good principle to live by, if Jesus lives within us, then we should treat our bodies well, we should recognise that we are holy too. But some of the most famous and holy temples or churches are decorated with stunning and beautiful artwork and adornment and it’s all for the glory of God. I mean going back to the OT, just look at some of the descriptions of how God wanted the temple to be. In Exodus 25 we read how the tabernacle was to be made and in 2 Chronicles 3 on the building of the temple. Beautiful descriptions of detail, precious stones, carvings, details, all for the glory of God…
So if it’s ok for God…
And in addition, how do we take this anyway? Do we never drink caffeine or alcohol? do we refuse to wear make up? Do we only ever eat super healthy food that cannot possibly harm us?
So there you go, two points on why I think tattoos are ok.
But adding to that, here’s why I had mine done. I have been thinking about getting one for a long time, like years, I’ve prayed about it, had different ideas, drawn things out. I really wanted something Godly, something biblical and I wanted a mark that said I am his. But I also wanted something personal to me.
In the end I went with the word Selah, which I have written about several times. Selah is important to me as it’s a reminder to take time to rest and to seek God, to reflect on Him. I wanted something where I could see it as a daily reminder to me to do just that. not that I need reminding to seek God but I do reminding to seek rest and rest in him. So I had that put on my wrist in a place where I will see it every day and be reminded.
It’s not that big or amazingly creative but I didn’t need it to be, I just wanted something simple as I said, to remind me.
SallyApril 25, 2016 at 8:30 am
Yay! Well done, on all levels.
Not long after giving my life to Christ, I also had a tattoo done. God’s name, YHWH, in Hebrew, on my inner wrist. It’s sparked many interesting conversation that would have otherwise not been shared. Some people questioned whether I was Jewish; so a while later I had Jesus in Hebrew – Yeshua – on my left wrist.
Very considered, very appropriate, no regrets and in the 12-ish years since I had the first one done, I’m happy to say I’ve encountered no serious criticism.
Heal well 🙂
JulesApril 25, 2016 at 7:13 pm
Thanks Sally, they sound great. Do you find they are good for conversations about faith?
UKViewerApril 25, 2016 at 3:56 pm
I have nothing against tatoo’s. There are some great examples of Body Art to be seen, sadly, there are rather more tasteless ones. The fact that there is a tattoo cover up business featured on TV demonstrates that care is needed (thoughtful care as you have displayed) before deciding to get a tattoo.
My father had tattoo’s that he acquired during WW2, in places as exoctic as Egypt and Italy – not offensive, but having someone’s name as your sweet heart on your arm, must have been embarrassment when he married my mother with a different name.
In terms of the Old Testament, I find that it informs us about the New Testament and Jesus said clearly that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. And he also gave us new commandments, so created law that we need to abide by, referring to the Gospels and Letters to put them into context. And the inclusion of the Gentiles, never subject to ‘The Law’ in God’s Kingdom, means that we also are not bound by the OT law. The Revelation to Peter about nothing being unclean in God’s creation, high lights that for all time.
I despair when I hear the OT quoted as the sole authority, rather than a passage applied in the light of the NT – because, one without the other is incomplete. But trying to get that message across to someone who isn’t ready to listen can be difficult. 🙁
JulesApril 25, 2016 at 7:14 pm
Indeed it can! we just have to go with grace and do what we can. I am really hoping that having this will be an opportunity to talk about why I have it. I’ve seen some people doing Tattoo evangelism which looks fab, they go talk to people with tats and prophesy over them 🙂
Becky TreenApril 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm
Hi Jules, as a Christian having 4 tattoos myself and planning a new one to show my survival of suicide with a semi colon to show my story is not over, I love love your post. You have put into black and white points I have argued myself. Well done and thank you.
JulesApril 25, 2016 at 7:15 pm
cool! what other designs do you have? tweet me some pics!
James HollingsworthApril 26, 2016 at 8:44 am
A Christian Council in Northumbria in 787 concluded you could have a tattoo so long as it was a Christian one (for the glory of God) and not one born from superstitious fear (protective talisman).
JulesApril 26, 2016 at 10:42 am
I must be ok then 😉