Tattoo hullabaloo: should Christians ink up?

Christian tattoo on backThe culture of Christianity is still divided on whether or not Christians should get tattoos. Those who are against this practice often refer to Leviticus 19:28, which says “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” This passage has also been applied to multiple body piercings. Those who don’t mind tattoos point out that the objection to tattoos was Mosaic law, which no Christian is obligated to fulfill since Christ fulfilled all works of the law on our behalf.

I believe this is an issue that won’t be completely resolved among Christians until Christ returns. The main issue for me would be why, or for what motive, is a person getting inked up. It’s helpful to consider the origins of such body modifications. Tattooing is an ancient practice rooted in various pagan rituals ranging from ancestor worship to witchcraft. Heathens believed that such markings for ancestor worship would serve such purposes as protecting them from evil spirits and providing supernatural strength if needed. That way of thinking still occurs today in more traditional tribal cultures who use tattoos.

Before the late 1980s or early 1990s, an overwhelming majority of Christians and secular society were against getting tattoos. They were associated with military personnel, bikers, rock stars, and fortune tellers/witches. That all changed when tattooing went mainstream with the help of celebrities like basketball player Allen Iverson. When secular society started accepting tattoos, Christians (as they so often do) followed suit. The reasons for inking up went beyond just pagan beliefs to include the idea that it made a person sexier and/or it was the mark of being a rebel. So who are they rebelling against? Basically, tattooing became a way for people to draw attention to themselves, to tell everyone around them “Look at me! Look at me! I’m so hip and cool!”

If these are reasons why any Christian gets a tattoo, then I’m against it because it reflects the pride of life that the apostle John spoke against in 1 John 2:16. Anyone who has paid attention to the spiritual state of Western society in the past 20 years knows that we are reverting back to pagan thinking and I find it interesting how tattoos have gained popularity alongside the growth of Eastern mysticism, New Age thinking, atheism, and other anti-Christian beliefs. When getting marked up increasingly becomes accepted as no big deal, it seems to me that accepting a mark mandated by any government also becomes no big deal to secularists.

However, having the wrong motives for doing something as a Christian doesn’t mean God will reject us or strike us down. To me, tattoos fall under Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient [spiritually profitable]…” Jesus promised us that whoever comes to him, he will in no circumstances cast them out (John 6:37). It seems to me this includes people with tattoos, regardless if the tattoos are BC or AD (i.e. in the years where Jesus became their Lord).

Harry A. Gaylord

4 thoughts on “Tattoo hullabaloo: should Christians ink up?

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  1. I’d also put it under the believer’s freedom. It’ permissible but not necessarily beneficial. In either case, I wouldn’t judge people for getting a tattoo. I go by a simple formula: When it comes to the minors (like tattoos), acceptance. When it comes to the majors (i.e. the deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, etc.), action. I best save my energy convincing people about the more important things.

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