i have been asked this question a lot, from the Christ-following perspective of ‘Is it okay for a Christian to get a tattoo or not?’
And then yesterday i got my first one and so my opinion on the matter should be pretty easy to figure out.
The one verse i am aware of that speaks of it directly, can be found in Leviticus 19.28 which i thought said, ‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead,’ and i have always argued that it was a culturally specific thing that was talking directly to the process of marking yourself ‘for the dead’ which was a pagan ritual and therefore very different to what any Christians i know with tattoos were going for.
The only other verse i have ever heard quote against tattoos was the one in 1 Corinthians 6 which reads,
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
And to be honest, this feels a lot thinner as an argument against tattoos as the people raising it will not use the same verse as an argument against eating badly or not exercising and other things which are way more detrimental to your temple than a tattoo.
SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM
i clearly remember the time i was driving to the airport many years ago to pick up my parents and i had this sense of God telling me it was okay for me to get a tattoo. Not that i should get one, but that if i wanted to [as this was something i had been thinking about] then i could go ahead and do so. The verse that specifically came to mind was Matthew 6.33 that reads, ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.’
So for me that was a significant moment of permission granted and for many years i thought i would get the phrase ‘Seek First His Kingdom’ as my tattoo. Again, not because God had said i should but cos i felt He had said it was okay.
The main thing i thought from that moment on though, was that i wanted a tattoo and specifically i wanted to be marked for Jesus. i wanted a mark on my body that signified that my life was given to Christ.
Which plays into the end of the Corinthians verse where it says, Therefore honor God with your bodies, which is exactly what i am hoping to do.
OR PUT TATTOO MARKS ON YOURSELVES
It was only much later, as in about ten minutes ago, that i checked up on that verse which i feel like i have checked out many times, just to make sure i was quoting it right when writing a post on it, to find that it actually reads like this:
28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
Oops. That seems a little more specific. i had not seen the second part of that verse before and it does seem a little hard to wiggle around, excepting that Mary Fairchild, in her article, ‘Should Christians have tattoos?’ gives a contextually helpful explanation of her feelings towards it [which i agree with] over here:
This is a question many Christians struggle with. I believe tattooing falls into the category of “disputable matters” where the Bible is not clear. But wait a minute, you might be thinking. The Bible says in Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.” (NLT) How much clearer can that be?
It’s important, however, to look at the verse in context. This passage in Leviticus, including the surrounding text, is specifically dealing with the pagan religious rituals of the people living around the Israelites. God’s desire is to set his people apart from other cultures. The focus here is prohibiting worldly, heathen worship and witchcraft. God forbids his holy people to engage in idolatrous, pagan worship and sorcery which imitates the heathens. He does this out of protection, because he knows this will lead them away from the one true God.
It’s interesting to observe verse 26, “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood,” and verse 27, “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” Well, certainly many Christians today eat non-kosher meats and get haircuts without participating in the forbidden worship of pagans. Back then these customs were associated with pagan rites and rituals. Today they are not.
She sums it up as falling into the category of disputable issues as related to in Romans 14, which among other things, gives permission to believers to eat food that was offered to idols in certain circumstances, and shifted the choice of getting a tattoo or not to one of motivation and awareness of those around you.
My sister, Dawn, summed it up in a similar way when she said to me that she doesn’t like the idea of people getting tattoos just for the sake of it, but when someone gets it for a specific reason, like i have in wanting mine for a number of years now, then she thinks that it great.
So the answer to the question, ‘Is getting a tattoo right or wrong?” is yes. And no. Depending on you and your circumstance and any weaker brother that may be watching.
i do feel like mine was sanctioned by God. and i did it intentionally to be marked for Jesus and to hopefully precipitate conversations with people when i explain what it means to me [there are a few levels] but more of that in the next post.