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.