World Magazine addressed the issue of tattoos this week. [Any comments in brackets are mine.]
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? Leviticus 19:28 --"you shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead --or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord."
WHAT DID THE FAMOUS PASTOR JOHN PIPER SAY? . He said tattooing is not a sin, but "be wise and skip it." He said that since the Leviticus passage is "explicitly anti-tattoo," "that should at least give us a few minutes' pause." He said the permanent nature of tattoos with the painful and expensive cost of removal --may turn them into stumbling blocks later. [In fact, even in California we hear recently of much demand to remove tattoos at great expense for better chances at jobs.]
WHAT DID PSYCHOLOGY PROF. LUKE TSE AT CEDARVILLE U. SAY? He
researched the topic among Christian college students in 2008 and found
that few consulted pastors or spiritual mentors before getting tattoos
--and "many" sinned in the process because they admitted they disobeyed parents who
forbade the practice. He found a few who minister in Christian punk
rock bands who fit in with their target ministry better, being
tattooed. He questioned whether such permanent skin markings were
necessary for evangelism to the tattooed.
The following is not from World Magazine.
WHAT DID THE UNTATTOOED PHILOSOPHER ROB ROHRS SAY? He reminds us that "we are not under the law --but the law is important." [Of course we eat shrimp and pork and we mix fabrics and many think tattoos may be in this category of Biblical laws. Many also try to sanctify and excuse sexual sins by the same argument these days. However, tattoos are clearly not in the same category as sexual sins in their potential for harm to others.]
WHAT DID A DOC FROM OHIO SAY? It used to be just military vets and prisoners who had tattoos. Otherwise, it was a characteristic of pagans and not of believers. If you are going to do it, BE SURE to use a reputable business (check with the BBB or perhaps Public Health Dep't.) as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis have been transmitted by tattoo needles in the past. He says his older patients don't like how their tattoos look on their older skin and many are embarrassed about them, attributing their acquisition to youthful folly. He also warns against multiple piercings on the ears --as the cartilage has gotten infected causing disfigurement common to prize fighters, known as "cauliflower ear," definitely not a mark of beauty. ]
[Leaving our bodies unmarked and unpierced as God made them, was characteristic of O.T. Jews and has been characteristic of the more modernized (civilized?) cultures --distinguishing us from the pagans who made graven images and art canvasses of their skin. From where do we get this desire to tattoo? In the church? No, from the world and its values of fads, peer influence, from the world's standards of beauty and "cool." From the pagan, unbelieving cultures --from the drug and punk culture --from Hollywood --not from the Bible, the Christians, their families and churches. As with so many things, the worldly lead the culture and the Christians follow. Instead of the other way around.
I worked with a very poor family with a sexually abusive father. They lived in most desperate circumstances. The kids were into tattooing themselves (before it was a fad) with pens and cutting the ink into their skins with pocket knives--self-mutilation. Part of the cutters' syndrome. Of course we know of pagan cultures of the past where the standard of beauty is a disc in the lip, rings stacked to elongate the neck, feet bound to make them small, crippling the girls in China. I've heard that getting tattooed and pierced is almost addictive to some people.
World said a starting price for a small tattoo could be $80. That would cover 2 or 3 months of child support through our ICCM ( Int'l Child Care Ministries) for sex traffic prevention. Or help the Winckles with their "country shares" to run their FM community center in Hungary. I realize the same argument could be used to criticize Christians for eating out and buying clothes or owning anything nice--however, food and clothes, housing and cars, are American necessities, whereas tattoos are not.
However, I am NOT writing this to criticize tattooed Christians and definitely NOT saying the non-tattooed are better Christians. I know some wonderful Christians, whom I admire, who do have some inobvious tattoos.
Some tattooed believers say they use their tattoos for witness among the tattooed --and they get Christian-themed tattoos and believe they are springboards for witness to others who also have tattoos. If that's really the motivation, so be it. May the Lord bless their ministries. (Though I guess a tattoo on the inner thigh or the posterior would not be a witnessing tool?)
But those who work with church youth might want to refrain from recommending tattoos in teaching or by showing off their own as something good to other people's children --considering many parents hope their kids won't tattoo --at least for its potential to affect their future careers and the expense of both receiving and removing them.
Yes, tattooing is superficial --generally not reflective of the heart or one's character--possibly not that important one way or the other --not affecting relationships. However, many do use tattoos to reflect noble sentiments --love for someone, e.g.--but we shouldn't feel somehow "incomplete" as untattooed persons --or more attractive with tattoos.
On a similar issue, I remember when churches and establishment types objected to long hair on the guys --as started in the hippie and rock cultures in the 60's. (I heard of some Illinois sheriffs out in the country where I taught, who arrested 2 young men -- for what, I don't remember --but they let them off with a penalty of cutting their hair!) Our Christian profs led the way to longer hair in the church as it became the prevailing style for men's hair at the time. At first, Jon's grandparents and parents thought the style was sinful, but we said to them that Jesus from Nazareth probably had long hair --and for Samson it was a virtue. As far as I know, there really wasn't any sinful connotation in the Bible against long hair on men, but the church had it as a legalism in western culture --such that when the rockers and the hippies let their hair grow, they INTENDED to be "anti-establishment" for worldly reasons --to be "in your face" to parents, bending the rules and being against the military draft and the Viet Nam war. At first, the long hair on boys and men just symbolized rebellion. Then it became mainstream fashion--and it was never really a sin in itself. Of course, tattooing is a little different than long hair in its Biblical prohibition. But it is another example of how the worldly, often rebellious youth, Hollywood and pop cultures have affected Christians --more than the Christians have affected them.
I wrote this because it's topical--in this week's World. And I believe
we should discuss things we do as Christians--and give our youth and parents who raise them wise biblical
counsel and well-rounded, informed direction about cultural trends
--especially when the church is being challenged to conform to the WORLD'S values in the name of compassion, love and witness.
Romans 12: 1--I
beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is
your reasonable service.
be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect, will of God.
I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to
think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of
Can one think soberly and humbly, be a good Christian, and still get tattoos? Yes, but would I recommend it? Not me --but I don't want to be guilty of thinking more highly of myself and my opinion than I ought. It is a matter for biblical consideration, reflection, personal conviction and I think a discussion on what it means to be worldly and to be good stewards of both money and the body. To those who already have tattoos, I'd say, "Don't worry about it." To those who don't, I'd say, "Be spiritually and biblically thoughtful first of all."
"9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."--II Peter 3:9