Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jesus' Ink...Part Two.

So my last post asked whether or not Jesus will have a tattoo, when He returns. The conclusion is really no conclusion, we are just going to have to wait and see.

So what about tattoos? What if you have a tattoo? What if you want a tattoo? Are tattoos Christian? Are tattoos a sin?

Tattooing is a controversial issue in society today, without the addition of Christian ethics and morals. To start with (so you understand my perspective), I have a tattoo. Actually, I have several tattoos.

I think a better question than the ones listed above would be, is a tattoo right for me? In our culture tattoos aren’t looked at the same way as they were maybe just a few years ago. For me tattoos were and are right, I have chosen to get them to represent specific areas and times in life I want to remember. I do however caution getting tattoos, it is a permanent expression; make sure you want to express that forever. There are some other things to take into consideration such as possible side effects and even the possibility of a disease, so be wise about your decision.

A tattoo is a personal decision, one to make wisely and not hastily. As Christians we need to realize we live in freedom with Christ, but we do not have a license to sin. The bible is clear about many things that are without a doubt a sin, however tattoos are a grey area. Leviticus 19:28 says, do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark you skin with tattoos. This verse was specifically needed to combat the worship of pagan Gods and ancestor worship. Furthermore we are not bound by the law to have a relationship with God because of the Sacrifice of Jesus.

What if you want to get a tattoo to glorify God and speak of your Christian testimony? Why not, the bible declares your body is a temple (2 Corinthians 6:15), so you are just putting out the sign, right? I know many people who have the salvation story tattooed on them, from the fall of man to the risen Christ and it is an amazing testament to their dedication, they can never hide their light, their ink declares their victory in Christ and I applaud their decision to live life that loudly for Christ.

I think the best way to look at this is, if you feel like tattoos are wrong, then they probably are wrong for you, but I would caution you in redirecting people who feel they are right. If you feel tattoos are right, then they may be right for you and I would caution you about trying to redirect those who believe it is wrong. The only thing we need to agree on is Jesus is our Lord and our God, everything else is gravy.

1 comment:

paul said...

In the context of Lev 19:28, the issue at stake seems to be that certain practices were closely identified with the worship practices of the pagan nations around Israel in the Ancient Near East. Around the verse in question are prohibitions against eating meat with blood in it, practicing divination and sorcery, making cuts or marks for the dead, and consulting mediums or spiritists. Thus I think it is immediately clear that at least a Christ-follower should not be participating in pagan worship practices or marking him or herself as part of those practices. Maybe that is as far as we want to take the passage. However, the verses do not prohibit those behaviors only in the context of pagan worship. They are prohibited across the board. The association of those practices with pagan worship was perhaps so strong that the LORD did not want to allow his people to do those same actions, even if they were not directly related to pagan worship.

It may be similar to the prohibitions against eating food sacrificed to idols in the New Testament. There was nothing wrong with the meat itself (1 Cor 8:7-8), but the association was sufficiently strong that the early church prohibited eating that meat as a matter of keeping a clean conscience (Acts 15:29). Christ himself accuses the church at Pergamum, "I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." (Rev 2:14) Food sacrificed to idols may have been a cultural issue, but it was still a real issue.

If association with wicked cultural practices is indeed something which should be avoided, how do we apply that in our 21st Century American context? What practices might be best avoided? How can we steer clear of lists of do's and don't's like fundamentalists while still taking the Biblical teaching seriously? How can we be God's people set apart from the world yet sent to the world? I think the issue is more complex than the simple question, "Is _________ a sin?"

I guess the bottom line is that through the gospel of grace we are freed from being "under" Lev 19:28. But by the gospel we are given new life and a new mission and compelled by God's mercy to live under a higher standard: the law of Christ, which is love.