Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tattoos and Christians

Let me start by saying I'm NOT for tattoos. However, there are bigger issues here.

People who oppose tattoos frequently quote Lev. 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” If we have to obey Leviticus 19:28, which prohibits tattoos, then we have to obey Leviticus 19:27, which prohibits haircuts. Furthermore, we are obligated to abstain from pork (Deut. 14:8), to abstain from all work between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday (Lev. 23:3), and if anyone does work on the Sabbath, we are required by law to stone him to death (Lev. 15:32-36). We are required to be circumcised (Ge. 17:10-14; Lev. 12:3), and any male who is not is to be cut off from God's people.

I could go on and on. If a Christian wants to use Mosaic Law to make a case against tattoos, then he is obligated to obey the entire law, along with everyone who agrees with him.

Christians constantly stumble over this. What is the place of Mosaic Law in the life of a believer? What about the 10 Commandments? Is the Old Testament still valid? Why do we eat pork and work on Saturdays but oppose murder, homosexuality, adultery, and coveting? Isn't that being selectively obedient?

Read Galatians! (And throw Romans 1-11 in for good measure!)

The Law points to God because it defines sin and reveals the character of God, but it also points us to Christ because it points out our complete inability to conform to the character of God and thus the need for a savior.

Josh McDowell put it best: Every law (precept) is based on an overarching principle, and every principle is based on the person (character) of God Himself. God wants us to conform to His character, and so the logic of the Law.

But as the Bible points out repeatedly, no one is capable of obeying the Law. So what to do?

Christ obeyed the Law perfectly. Christ fulfilled the Law (Mt. 5:17). Christ is the end of the Law (Romans 10:4) and through the New Covenant, made the Old Covenant OBSOLETE (Heb. 8:13).

When a person becomes born again, they are placed in Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). All that is Christ's becomes reckoned to the believer: His death, His burial, His resurrection, His righteousness, His sonship, AND his standing in regards to the Law! If I am in Christ, I am regarded as having obeyed the Law - I am JUSTIFIED! Declared RIGHTEOUS!

So why do we obey some laws and ignore others? It's really simpler than it sounds.

Principles never change. They are eternal and based on the character of God. How they are expressed CAN change – significantly. Precepts (laws) are expressions of principles. The principle behind "no tattoos" was separation from the Pagans, since the pagan nations around Israel ritually tattooed themselves. Same principle behind not cutting the hair at the sides of the head (which is why Orthodox Jews have LONG sideburns!). That principle still stands today. God's people are not to imitate the world (!!). If the Pagans were all cutting their sideburns as an expression of their devotion to Baal (or Krom or color TV or whatever) then God's people should not do it. We are to be separate in this sense.

We are still obligated to every principle expressed in the Bible, but not to Mosaic Law. We don't murder because people are created in God's image. That still stands. Homosexuality is wrong because it violates God’s essential design for human sexuality (Ge. 1:27) AND it mars God's picture through marriage of His relationship to the Church. We are still obligated to rest, and to set aside time sacred to God, but it does not have to be restricted to a single day or a specific form of activity. Hebrews tells us that our Salvation is a fulfillment of Sabbath rest! (So when I'm asked which day I celebrate the Sabbath, I respond 'Every day! I'm saved!')

Am I for tattoos? Absolutely not!

They arguably do mar and dishonor the body, though that is up for debate.
They are often a sign of impulsiveness and immaturity.
They are expensive, permanent, and a poor stewardship all the way around (think of how far that money would go in Africa or India).
It would be hard to convince me that a Christian would get one and not be in imitation of the pagans.
I also think they are most often an expression of REBELLION.
If my kid ever gets one I'll kill him!

But you cannot convince me that they are sinful in and of themselves (any more than trimming your sideburns is!) and you CANNOT appeal to Mosaic Law to make your case! (Unless you appeal to it on the basis of the principle it expresses: Separation)

If we're going to argue this stuff, let's argue on sound biblical thought rather than yanking verses out of the air (proof-texting). I could justify almost anything by doing that! There are plenty of good reasons not to get a tattoo without becoming legalists.

Remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free! (Galatians 5:1)

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Blogger Ike said...

I just left this on another blog but its worth repeating.

The genius of the Reformed view is that it corrects the libertines without falling into legalism. Ironically, some of the most legalistic groups have been those who have been more eager to deny the Law any place in the Christian life. Typically, they have abolished the Law while, at the same time, adding a host of extra-biblical requirements, like no drinking, dancing, or movie-going. Their peculiar rules support the observation that man needs a law-if he doesn’t have God’s, he’ll make his own.

The Reformed faith has adamntly maintained that there is Christian liberty in areas outside of the application of the moral law. Every bit as strongly as it has argued for the need of absolute and precise conformity to the Law of God, it has argued for liberty of conscience in areas not addressed by Scripture. No tradition has been so strict and rigid in its use of the Law. No tradition has been so rigorous in banishing the commandments of men.

May 21, 2009 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

"Principles never change. They are eternal and based on the character of God."

This is the misunderstanding of many Christians. We are to be conformed to God's character through learning to apply godly principles in our lives...being taught through the Word, by the Holy Spirit.

While Christ in us has sanctified us...we are still in the process of learning to apply the principles.

May 24, 2009 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Steve Martin said...

I'm not crazy about tattoos either, but I am also not crazy about other things that I engage in myself (sins).

The important thing is to remember that One has died for us and forgives us.

I wish I had a nickel for every bad and selfish decision I've made in my life.

May 26, 2009 at 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Christian and I just got a tattoo. It is a beautiful butterfly & flower design that symbolize some important things in my life.

I am the furthest thing from rebellious. Never even wanted to rebel. I waited until I was 18 (almost 19) to get the tattoo. Even so, I got approval from my parents & my mother went with me to get it.

I didn't get it to fit in with those who don't believe in God, in fact I haven't even told anyone besides my parents about it. It is only for me & for what it symbolizes, I simply added some artistic beauty to my body, much like using makeup, dying hair and piercing ears.

I love Jesus, try my hardest everyday to do what glorifies him. And I know he doesn't love me any less for adding a little art to my body and it in no way pulls me or anyone else from Him.

August 13, 2009 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Hamdulilah said...

So Sory dear, but your theology is off... Jesus HIMSELF said MATTHEW 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Christians are to follow the LAW of the old testament...

You say, “that’s from the Old Law and we aren’t under the Old Law anymore”. I say “But aren’t the Ten Commandments part of the Old Law?” YOU SAY IN RETURN “Yes, but we are obligated to follow them because they are reported in the NT” (Matthew 19:16-18, Mark 10:17-19 & Luke 18:18-22). I just want to point out that Jesus OMMITTED half of the Ten Commandments and INVENTED a new ones, “though shall not defraud”, "turn your cheek" (might as well get rid of armed forces...)! According to your scriptures "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of law to fail” (Luke 16:17 & Matthew 5:18-19). If sin is transgression of the law, as 1 John 3:4 says, then you should be following all of the Old Law...

If you have an issue with the theoloy, then it's your Bible that has contradictions... THERE ARE SOOO MANY MORE! If the Bible is the Word Of God then it should be infallable...Unfortunately it has been polluted and mininterpreted and mistranslatted... We dont even hae a copy of the ORIGIONAL manscripts of theNew Testament... (which was written after Jesus left the earth)

I can not follow a book that has errors and contradictions, GOD'S Word is not perserved through the Bible...

I FOUND TRUTH AFTER takeling this year long obsticle, It's the religion of "SUBMISSION TO GOD'S Will"... One word in Arabic for that is "ISLAM".

Read and study the Bible...
Read and study the Quran...

Hopefully your heart will b ope o he TRUTH...

Here is a facinating lecture...

November 27, 2009 at 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photo of you and your family makes it clear that you've decided to "imitate" the pagan culture of middle-class America. While this paganism might be more difficult to discern than the paganism of tattooed-up Harley riders, it's still there: in its consumerism, in the inherent pridefulness of wearing well-made collared shirts from brand name companies, in the inherent injustice of how those brand-name shirts are made by children in Bangladesh, and so forth. (Think about how far that money for your collared shirt would go in Africa or India..)

It seems to me that we're always identifying with one culture or another, pagan or otherwise. Jesus didn't leave us a culture to imitate, but a person--and a community in which to perfect that imitation.

December 8, 2010 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Why don't you identify yourself? It would make for much better dialogue, if that's what you're looking for.

December 13, 2010 at 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I type this comment with the notion that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however indifferent it may be. With that being said I would agree with some of the things in this article that tattoos are in some way a sort of rebellion and a sign of immaturity. On the other hand who of us as Christians are perfect? What I mean by that is, who can honestly say that they have never done ANYTHING that went against the word of God? i think we all have since the bible clearly tells us that we have ALL fallen short, no matter how good of a Christian you may think you are, the truth is evident. My point is, let God worry about what's ultimatley right and wrong, becoming a Christian is a process not an event and im still growing.

February 20, 2011 at 5:14 PM  

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