Are Tattoos and Body
by Tony Warren
T here was a time when markings on the skin were only made by the primitive and heathen tribes, or by sailors who had traveled to their countries and brought these customs back with them. Body piercings were traditionally done only by primitive tribes who didn't know the God of Israel. However, it is indeed a sign of the times that over the last few decades, body piercings and tattoos, which are reminiscent of the unregenerate pagan nations, have become very popular in Christian countries. So much so that today it is not uncommon to find that people professing to be Christian are either in support of, or defending the claim that there is nothing Biblically wrong with these practices. You can even search the internet and find so called 'Christian tattoo parlors' and 'Christian body Piercing studios.' Indeed, the time is upon us where it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the world and the Church.
1st John 2:15
- "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
The Church loves the world today, and as a result is becoming just like it. Where once there was a 'distinct' separation from the way of the world and the traditions that the children of God practiced, today there is no separation. There seems to be a race by many professing Christians to see how much like the world they can become, while still professing themselves as Christians. Granted, it is true that the modern Church has been in doctrinal degradation and decay for over fifty years, but it now appears to be in total free fall where any orthodoxy or adherence to Biblical principles is actually considered "unchristian" or "judgmental." And although this degeneration of historical Church doctrines has been well documented by many Theologians, very few Pastors have either the will or the inclination to preach against such practices. They are so affected by the malaise of exegetical hypnosis that they have no ability to discern between their right hand and their left. The result of this spiritual malaise is both predictable and inevitable.
2nd Timothy 2:19-20
- "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
- But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour."
Thus we have in the Church the post-modern Christian mixing the holy with the unholy, and blending the spiritual with the fleshly, all in the name of being open minded and inclusive. Many indeed exhibit indignation against anyone making righteous judgments concerning these worldly practices. Their rationalization for support of tattooing and body piercing is that, "by not preaching against this, they are actually helping young people find more things in common with Christ." But on the contrary, what they end up doing is making Christ, common. By unrighteous oxymorons like "Christian Rock," "Christian Tattoos," and "Carnal Christians," they effectively blur the line between the world and the Church. So much so that today it is nearly impossible to tell where one stops and the other begins. Wrong passes for right, and worldliness is spoken of as Christian empathy. But the people who do this will not go blameless before God.
- "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
Those whose consciences are not seared are vexed by the troubling question, "is it a sin for Christians to get tattoos or body piercings?" Most modern theologians will not answer the question directly, but instead will navigate around common sense and scripture like a politician navigates around tough issues. Nevertheless, this really isn't a gray area (as some unwilling to tackle the question honestly would allege), because there are many Christian principles which would prohibit these actions. Not the least of which is that we are to live life as a new creature, different from the world, humble rather than vain wherein we look for ways to be adulated, as the world does.
- "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
- The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."
- "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Christian body piercing in the most basic (honest) definition, is the vain cutting or self-mutilation of the human body for the express purpose of adulation and admiration. You want others to see this thing that you've done to yourself, that you may glory in it. Harsh evaluation, yes, but what other reason is there for these actions except the lust of the eyes? These are the same reasons that the world does these things. As we saw in 1st John 2:15, this is their way, not the way of one who is supposed to be "set apart" for the service of God. Verse 16 continues..
1st John 2:16
- For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
- And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Wanting to have body piercings is the lust of the flesh, not a desire of the Spirit. Those people accepting these trends are embracing dangerous practices that may seem harmless, but are about as harmless as an Adder. Just because something "seems" harmless to the naive, doesn't mean that it is.
- "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
- Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established."
In other words, a person's ways may seem innocent to him, but God doesn't look on the outward appearance, the hidden vanity, agenda, motives are all weighed by the LORD. Whether they are to be like the world, or to rebell against parents, or to stroke our egotism, it is not hidden from God. We may deceive ourselves, but we don't deceive God. And it's not just a fad or trend, it's a symptom of a much greater spiritual problem in the world. And it just keeps getting worse, with people getting multiple rings in noses, ears, in the tongue, eyebrow, navel, and other unmentionable parts of their bodies. Yet we have Christians protesting against us in support of this practice? This is not Christian activity no matter how much rationalization you may hear. It is an abnormal unseemly and unnatural practice for Christians. And we will continue to preach against it by authority of scripture..
Likewise, Christians branding themselves with markings or tattoos is an unnatural defacing of their body, which God has deemed His Holy Temple. We might go so far as saying that it is near to committing sacrilege against this Temple, because these are the actions of the worldly unsaved children, not of God's children. We are the visible representations of God on earth, and thus are to walk circumspectly. Our body is not like the world's body, it is a temple to the Holy Spirit. Marring or disfiguring the body the creator made for us will not add one single thing to the glory of God, or to the extending of the gospel. And there is definately inference from the fact that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we should honor it, rather than disrespect and desecrate it. For it is God's living testament to us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:13). It's strength, symmetry, endurance, and inherent beauty declares how wonderful a creator our God is. What can man's tattoos, sundry metals and nose jewels add to this creation but paganism and vanity. We should never attempt to make any non essential, permanent "improvements" to the body God created for us. For if we nobly consider this, it is clear this pagan conduct is done to be grandiose, or for reasons of show, vanity, or pride. Many in the Church today have their eyes squarely on the world, and that is why they love to emulate what they see in the world, and bring it into the Church. i.e., the proliferation of worldly dress, speaking, music, entertainment and practices.
Of course, there are few professing Christians that are going to confess their own vanity and desire to be immodest, so in an attempt to obscure their reasons for tattooing their body, they have substituted worldly images for pictures of Christ, hearts, doves or crosses. Their conscience cleared, now they can claim that it was all done as a witness to their faith rather than their flesh. However, even a rudimentary examination of the motives will show these things are almost always done for self, and not for Christ. Christ is just a convenient excuse, the rationalization they need to appease their conscience. Moreover, where is that excuse for body piercings? Can we say we got six ear rings in order that it be a witness to Christ? Not with a straight face we can't. Yet even that is rationalized today by professing Christians.
- "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
God knows the heart of man, and he knows it is full of excuses, justifications and self-delusion. And He is not fooled by it. The lust of the flesh is not something new, even for Christians. And so we should be able to understand that when man wants something bad enough, he can rationalize away almost anything. The truth is, tattoos and body piercings are really a witness to these people's worldliness, and not to their faith in Christ. For Christ is "not of this world," and as Christians we should also take up our cross and deny ourselves the lusts the world loves. Christians today seem to want to have one foot in the world, and the other in the kingdom.
- "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
- Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
- Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
- These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."
Denying ourselves these worldly lusts shows that we are a peculiar people, a special people set apart from the world. The children of God are to take their sanctification with all gravity and sobriety, taking special care that they not expose themselves or their profession, by any inappropriateness, to contempt. Let no man despise us or have contempt for us because of our hypocritical worldly actions or lusts. There is no way that we can justify our worldly lusts by self-serving platitudes about what, "good it can do as a witness to unsaved people." One professed Christian rationalized it to me, saying, "The tattoos I have provoke conversation and questions about Christianity." I would think that it would, but for all the wrong reasons. His problem was that he concluded that, therefore, it was good for him to have a tattoo. But using this logic, I could say that because a person from Iran heard of Christ in a mosque, that means God uses mosques to provoke people to come to Christ, so they are a good place to witnesses. Again, this is self-justification and self-serving. The ends "never" justify the means. We cannot do what is both unlawful, and a bad witness, in hopes that the end good that might come would justify the means. Did Lot start emulating the practices of the unrighteous around him, or was he troubled daily by the degradation?
2nd Peter 2:6-7
- "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
- And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:"
The world's conversation and behavior vexed Lot "because" he was a different creation of God. He was chosen of God and thus had a spirit that was vexed by the ways of the world. Could any of us "honestly" imagine Christ piercing His nose and putting rings in His ears because that was the worldly fad of the day? Could we imagine Christ having the Temple, Olive trees, or grapevines tattooed on His body as a witnessing tool? Of course we couldn't. Knowing Christ (which Christians do), the mere suggestion is outright ridiculous. Because as Christians we inherently know that's not a Godly practice. It is indeed disgusting to see professing Christians deform the body, the holy that the Lord made in perfection. Yet people will rationalize, and are blindly led to suppose that this heathenistic practice can be used to God's Glory by His disciples today. On the contrary, God specifically instituted laws to make the children of God "separate" from the heathen nations and their worldly traditions. From not mingling two kinds of seed, to not mixing livestock, these were all Old Covenant laws to illustrate that God's people were to be separate from the unbelieving peoples of the world. They were not to mingle with them as one seed was not to be mingled with another. And that included embracing their traditions of markings in their flesh, which characterized these ungodly nations.
- "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."
The objection here by some is that it was the stipulation of piercings or cuttings in the flesh "for the dead," which is true. However I think that it is perfectly clear from the text that God was instructing them not to follow the practices of these heathen nations around them. And God says, "nor print any marks upon you." And the reason is because they were a "separated" people, a "called out" people, and a "different" people from those of the world. And that is the point that Christians today don't seem to comprehend.
1st Peter 2:9
- "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:"
We are a possessed or acquired people who have been called out of the ways of darkness, into the light. Shall we go back in the lusts of the flesh for the ways of the world? Shall we who have been called out of the world and its ways, continue to desire to live in the flesh as the world? God forbid, for we are a people who serve the true God translated into a different kingdom. And we cannot lust after the old ways, as Lot's wife who looked back to that she had left.
Of course those objecting to what Leviticus teaches are quick to point out that Leviticus chapter 19 also forbids cutting your hair off around the sides, rounding the beards, and mixing different seeds.
- "Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
- Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
- Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."
Take note how they leave out not eating blood, using enchantments, and observing times. You see they understand they should continue to keep these laws, but they joy in pointing out these "other precepts." In their zeal to justify themselves, they neglect to see that 'all these laws' were clearly written to keep the Children of God from emulating the heathen customs of the ungodly people around them. Customs like eating blood soaked meats, drinking blood, using enchantments, cutting their hair to leave a plot on top, cutting the corners of beards, cutting themselves for the dead, and branding themselves with what we call Tattoos. They all represented things which God's people were not to do because these heathen nations around them did them, and they were to be special. They were commanded to be diverse from the world, a people set apart and sanctified for the service of God. This caveat really starts in chapter 18 Where God says Israel must not be like the world that He brought them out of, as Egypt, and must not be as the land they are going into Canaan, they must do His judgments and keep His ordinances because He is the Lord your God. Clearly God is instructing them not to act, mimic or be like the unsaved world. How then can these scriptures in Leviticus be used today in support of doing the exact same thing that they clearly warn against? Namely, going after the same ungodly traditions of those "outside of the camp" of God's people, and doing exactly as the world does in tattooing and the cutting and piercing the body? Far from proving their point, these scriptures are another strong prohibition to God's people of following after these traditions of the ungodly such as tattooing and piercing the body. And the ungodly world is exactly where these practices came from. This law stands today that we (like Israel) are not to become as the unbelievers around us that we take their customs of tattooing, cutting out flesh or putting rings in our noses and eyebrows. And it is indeed a telling indictment of themselves when they can say "see" when talking about cutting round the corners of the hair, and accept the other prohibitions of not eating blood, using enchantments, and cutting for the dead. i.e., they want to have it both ways where they can pick and choose which laws they should keep, depending upon what is the latest style, craze or fad. The classic case of "situation ethics," or obedience dependant upon the times in which we live.
- "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
The Lord God is immutable. So just as He didn't want His old Covenant congregation Israel mingling with the world and learning their customs, He doesn't want His New Covenant congregation mingling with the world and learning their customs. For it will "adulterate" the congregation. Let's face facts, tattoos and body piercings are not in any way a good testimony for Christians. When even an unbeliever will tell you it seems out of place for a Christian to have tattoos, then we should know something is not right. Certainly we are not to appear gaudily in ways that attract attention to our body or dress. The Scriptures command us to present a modest appearance and to walk after the Spirit in meekness, not after the flesh, that we not be conformed to this world. Tattoos do not fit that command in any sense. We are to live as far from the way that the world lives as we can, not see how close to the world we can live. When you're walking along a precipice or cliff, if you have wisdom you don't see how close you can get to the edge without falling off. On the contrary, you stay as far away from the edge as possible. Likewise, we are at enmity with the ways of the world. We are two 'distinct' kingdoms that should retain their distinctiveness. i.e., Carnal Christians, Christian Rock and Roll, Biblical Divorce, Christian Tattoos, White Lies, Christian Body Piercings, etc., these are all oxymorons. These are not things that should go together, they are things diametrically opposed to each other. The laws God instituted in Leviticus were designed "specifically" to keep the children of God and the children of the world separate in their customs, traditions, desires, deeds, gods, and appearance. This unadulterated truth is conveniently forgotten in modern day lust to be like the world. To dress like them, to tattoo themselves like them, and to even live like them. Pride, arrogance, rebellion and vanity are the hallmark of those who mark, cut and pierce their bodies. Are we not spiritual adulterers when we abandon Godly virtues in fleshly lust after the world? In attempting to be like the world, are we not yet carnal? For it is written, friendship with the world is enmity with God.
- "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
- Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
- Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
- But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."
Humility is the opposite of rebellion and arrogance. Don't kid yourself, people do not get tattoos for Christ's sake. We all know that Christians preached the word of God very effectively without tattoos for 2000 years. So this "line" that some people are using about it being a witness is nothing but the tickling of the ear. It's an excuse, not a Biblical reason. It is self-serving justification, not biblical warrant. People get tattoos and body piercings for their own glory, not to the glory of God. For they are not walking in the Spirit, but in the carnality of the flesh.
- "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
- For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
- For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
- Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
The carnal mind has the lust for tattoos and body piercings because they like the way the world looks with them. And they (whether consciously or not) believe that they can have one foot in heaven, and still keep one in the world. However, it is written, "a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." If they are neither hot nor cold, then they are lukewarm, and thus under warning of God to repent of this confusion. God rejects lukewarm because He is a jealous God. We are not to care about the things of the world, but set our hearts on the things from above. When we are 'born from above' we are a new creation in Christ where our desire is no longer to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, but to surrender to the will of God in the spirit. Being a different creation than the Children of the world, we walk according to the Kingdom, not according to the world's traditions. These ungodly markings in the flesh, the body piercings in the tongue, nose, eyelids, lips, navel, and elsewhere, have no redeeming value. They certainly aren't glory to God, they are the glory of unregenerate man, and a shame and a disgraceful show in Christianity. For glorying in the flesh, we make ourselves enemies of Christ. True Christianity is a state of mind, a personal relationship, and a way of life. It is not merely a label that we call ourselves so that we may feel justified.
- "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
- Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
- Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
- (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
- Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
- For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:"
Our conversation, citizenship, or place of our communing together, is in the Spirit. So we should understand His will based upon a careful scholarship of the word of God, without imposing our own personal opinions. We have our citizenship in heaven, not together with those who are of the flesh, earthy. And the curious thing about these unnatural practices, most Christian don't even try to defend them "biblically," rather their defense is the humanistic reasoning that we are not actually harming the body, so therefore there is no harm in doing it. But the harm is in the body of Christ. When we are disobedient and prideful to go our own way in refusal to heed God's precepts about separation, chaste, and markings in the flesh, we do harm to the body of Christ. Moreover, our bodies are the Temple of the Lord, and we should no more mark it or disfigure the flesh, as we would paint graffiti on the walls of our Church buildings. And who would do that? Are not our bodies of greater import than a Church building? For our builder and maker is God.
1st Corinthians 6:19-20
- "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
- For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
We should "honestly" ask ourselves, "is tattooing ourselves and placing body piercings all over our body glorifying God in our body?" We are not our own, and so simply do not have the right to do anything we want with our life, our spirit, or our body. It all belongs to God who bought us. That is what many professing Christians miss. Look at it this way. Would we paint graffiti on someone else's building? It is interesting that in man's justification of this behavior (his weakness) many professing Christians say that they should have the free will or "Christian liberty" to do whatever they chose to their own body. Indeed this sounds perilously close to the justifications of those who support the so-called "right to choose" in the abortion rights issue. I'm not saying that people who want tattoos and body piercings are akin to abortionists, I am saying that the mindset is the same. It is one of narcissism or self-love. Carnal man/woman loves what they want, rather than have a love of God and thus desire what He wants for us. It is truly a lack of surrendering self and will, to the will of God. We are living in the "Me Generation" where there is a marked, growing disdain for Godly sacrifice or work. As long as these carnal Christians can do whatever they want, they will joy in calling themselves Christians. But if there is any restriction, then they want no part of that kind of Christianity. Because all law is judgmental and that's considered a violation of their so-called Christian liberty. Yet there truly is no such liberty that allows Christians to do such things. It is a myth that has been floating around the Church for years.
1st Corinthians 3:3
- "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
If you are yet carnal, then you are not yet a Christian. You may go to Church, read the bible, say a prayer, but the carnal mind is enmity with God.
Others attempt to justify these practices by introducing a "straw Man," or by giving diverse scenarios about the body. One person quipped, "isn't someone who has had an arm amputated defaming the Temple of God in cutting his flesh to save his life?" Of course this is a half-sarcastic question, but the answer is no. For his mindset isn't to pretend this glorifies God, or to join the fads of the world, or to deliberately mar the Temple of God, his mind is to preserve it. Now if someone were to say I'm going to cut a hole in my ear the size of a silver dollar because I would like to be like a tribe of people I saw, then yes, that would be sin. But to equate someone needing an amputation to someone putting rings in their nose to glorify themselves, is a pitiful defense. They are not becoming like the world for their own glory, so this is an example of mixing apples and oranges. It seems people have their eyes so trained on themselves, that they aren't even addressing the fundamental questions. Our body is the 'perfect' creation of God, and so why would we mar that because the world likes to appear tribal? Shall we carve into God's temple for our own fleshly eyesore, or that we might possibly improve the appearance of it, as the heathen attempt to do? As that verse in 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 states, we are merely tenants of God's house. Why is that not sinking in? Our body is not ours to simply do with it as we please, we have been bought with a price, and we should not forget these truths in our vain and egotistical rantings about how, "it belonging to us." Not only for our own sakes, but we should be concerned about the impression that we give to other people by these body piercings and tattoos. For even an unbeliever knows something is amiss and will give a double take when he sees a person full of tattoos or piercings who claims to be a Christian. He knows it is out of place (and so do we all) because Christians are 'supposed' to be different from the world. Our body is part of our witness, the testimony of how we live our lives.
1st Thessalonians 5:21-22
- "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
- Abstain from all appearance of evil."
So many professing Christians simply choose to ignore all these scriptures that have bearing on the subject in order to continue doing whatever 'they want' in all areas of their life. They have not surrendered their life to Christ. Indeed, they are fighting to hold on to their life in the world. And that is a scary thought. Why would we even do something that might give the appearance of evil? For example, would I live with a woman without being married, even though there was no immorality going on? No, I would not! Why? Because I understand that it would "still be sin" because I am giving the appearance of evil which we are commanded not to. We should not act in any way that would lead people to conclude that we were involved in something unbecoming a Christian. So that even if we were too stubborn and prideful to see the truth and realize the inherent sin ourselves, we should still not do it for the sake of others. Give no appearance of evil by following after every new trend or flavor of the month that the world will come up with. We should be constant, a lighthouse always shining with the same light, grounded, not blown about with every wind. The child of God shouldn't get caught up in fads and the traditions of the world for the simple reason that they are not part of it. Why doesn't he think on what God would want him to do, rather than what's going to make him feel good about himself, or what's going to look good 'to the world' on him? The answer to that question is one that most don't want to hear. Rather than seek a tattoo or piercing to glorify ourselves, we should seek how we can glorify God, by making our bodies a living sacrifice. We do that by giving our body in service to the Lord, not as a billboard for heathen traditions. And the word of God does give us sound Biblical principles that often are not applied.
1st Corinthians 10:31
- "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
Should we adopt styles and fads that will cause offense to other Christians who see these practices 'clearly' identify with false religions, tribes, and unregenerate morals and attitudes? I find it hard to believe that any true Christian would think that He is piercing his tongue, lips, nose, or putting markings on his skin, all to the glory of God. I find it hard to believe that any believer truly thinks that he can glorify God in his body by cuttings in the flesh, or by tattoos. When God said our body is not our own, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. -1st cor. 6:20," you can be sure God is not saying go put cuttings in your skin, and holes in your tongue or lips. He's not saying go mark up your body and pretend you're doing it for me. But this is the delusion of man who has taken His eyes off the prize, and put them on himself. Christian liberty (contrary to popular teaching) does not mean that we can go back into the bondage of the world because nothing is forbidden because of Grace. It means we are spiritually free, and thus will hold fast the commandments of God.
- "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
It means that our sins are forgiven, as we are no longer enslaved by the way of the world. There is a big difference between freedom to sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2), and freedom from sin. We are not entangled again to be a slave of the world, we are Christ's freemen. We are free from that bondage wherein Satan once ruled us as he does the ungodly around us. The modern day encroachment of tattooing and body piercings into the Church is yet another test of our Biblical resolve. Will the Church keep the faith, or will God's people again turn away from the faith to do their own thing, and pleasure in the way of the world? The Christian mind should not even be on these things, but upon things of good report. Our thoughts should be on the gospel, on evangelism, and on keeping the light shinning pure, rather than adulterated.
- "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Does tattooing and body piercing conform to this command? Every man and woman looking deep into the mirror, must answer this question in Christ. But when the unfaithful want to do what is pleasing to the flesh, they will pretend that they do not know that it's wrong. They will say they do not believe that what they do is against God's laws. They feign that they can't discern God's clear word on divorce, on fornication, on abusing the body, or marking up the skin, or even on modesty and the appearance the Christian should give. Yet they can discern something more complicated, like heredity, or that when the wind blows from the south, heat will follow. They can discern that, but they somehow cannot discern that God means 'exactly' what He says?
- "Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
- Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?"
The point is, why can't they even of themselves judge what is right and what is wrong? And the honest answer is, because they "really" don't want to. The very thought of mutilating or disfiguring our bodies should be against everything in our very nature as a new creation in Christ. Christ is our example, and just the thought (whoever would honestly even bother to think) of Christ wearing pierced ear rings or having images or writings permanently placed in His flesh, of the Spirit 'should' be enough to settle the issue. Do not men who have never even read scripture know that it's wrong to kill? As scripture asks, "Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" And looking at the proliferation of these practices, that, is a very good question.
One Christian insisted that, "earrings and tattoos open doors," and that, "this is the best way to reach people in our modern culture." e said this "as if" we must become just like the world, in order to get people out of the world? Misapplying Paul's, "I become Roman to win the Romans," they are truly deluding themselves. Paul didn't imply disfiguring the body because heathen do it. This passage is taken totally out of context. Did Solomon bring the wicked to God by marrying women who had false gods, or were they a problem to him? This logic is as unsound as their belief that tattoos will win souls. Our path is not in the way of the world, but in showing them there is another way that is "different" from the path they are taking. Tattoos are the physical equivalence of outwardly adorning ourselves, showing a spirit of exaltation. It is the spirit of the unbeliever, not of the believer. If God warns about outward adorning in dress, how much more about tattoos, nose rings and disfigurements.
1st Peter 3:3-5
- "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
- But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
- For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:"
Let our adorning be a spiritual adorning, a crown which no man can take away from us. Let it be a robe of righteousness that is a far better witness than worldly marks in the skin, or holes and jewels in our ears. Our mark is the name of God written in our foreheads, where the only way people can see it is by evidence of our lives. Our adorning is the crown that Christ has given us, which is so different from the adorning of the world that there is no earthly comparison. Let us glory in this, and not in being assimilated into the world and their practices.
1st John 4:4-6
- "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
- They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
- We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
This isn't an article claiming that it is absolutely unbiblical to ever cut the skin. Obviously, there are many good examples of such acceptable practices, such as operations, amputations, even plastic surgery in many cases. Tattoos and body piercings are really not the main issue here. I'm sure that there will be many Christians in heaven who have gotten tattoos or had earrings. The issues here are arrogance, love of neighbor, separation from the world, and our earnest desire to do the will of God. Rather than an article saying we can't cut our flesh, this is an article stressing the very same precepts that God was stressing when he told Israel not to sow its field with two different seeds. And when He commanded that they could not plow with an ox and jackass together. And when He declared that they could not wear a garment made of two different threads like wool and linen (Deuteronomy 22:9-11). These laws to prevent different kinds from mingling together were a "sign" designed to prevent the Israelites from following the worldly practices and mixing with the heathens around them. They were tokens designed to keep them as a Holy and separate people. The same reason that we are not to pierce our bodies and tattoo ourselves as the world does. Christians are a sanctified and holy people.
1st Corinthians 10:23-24
- "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
- Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."
Let us not seem to find our own riches and glopry, let us seek for the riches and glory of others. All things are possible where there is grace, but not all things are advantageous and beneficial to the body. As I've said, it's not that the tattoo itself is the real problem, rather it is what is in the heart of a professing Christian that moves him/her to do want something like that on their bodies. And trust me, it is "not" that they are seeking another's glory, or seeking another's edification, or because it is an example of them loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Law of God (Leviticus 19:28) prohibited cutting oneself for the dead, and printing drawing in our flesh (i.e., tattoos). The context of Leviticus 19 is one of warning God's people not to go after the pagan idolatries and practices there, and clearly these are the behaviors that we see today in our society. It is all part and parcel of the mindset to worship ourselves, our glory, and worldly idols instead of the one true God. But we are bought with a price and are not our own. Yes, this is contrary to the prevailing "Christian Liberty," and "Self-rule" mentality of modernistic Christians who want tattoos and body piercings. But our earnest desire should be to do God's will, not our own. That is to say, if we are the Lord's servants. And truly, what could you place in your skin that would give you more beauty, witness or self-worth than the body God has provided? So let the true Christian therewith be content.
May the Gracious Lord, who is rich in mercy, by the gift of His Holy Spirit, guide us all into the truth of His most blessed word concerning this issue.
Copyright © 2001 Tony Warren
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