It’s not easy taking an unpopular stand. It no doubt offends some people while you get a bunch of silent “Amens” from others who secretly agree with you. It can be a lonely place to go out on a limb and be against something that people may feel is innocuous in nature. But I’ll tell you where I stand on this issue this week…I’m against it. What I’m against can’t even be remotely considered “Holy.” This issue has its genesis in the evil, pagan, and unregenerate communities. This issue blurs the line of separation between the church and the world. It’s intertwined with a modesty issue. Lastly, to be for such an issue is to assist in sowing the seeds of compromise by converting young naïve Christians into believing this issue is innocuous…when it’s not. So what’s this issue? Tattoos and body piercings on Christians.
Now, let me stress the fact that if you already have tattoos…that’s OK! Maybe some or all of your tattoos were from the days before you were a Christian. No one can, nor should they, fault you for having gotten tattoos. Others may have fallen away and backslid into the world and gotten tattoos, but now you have restored fellowship with God and your local church. Again, that’s OK! They’re on your body now. My concern is…if you want to be a serious minded Christian who desires to please God with their body for His service, I beg you, don’t get NEW ones. There are many things Christians do that don’t help the cause of Christ, and tattoos and body piercings are one of those things.
Listen, God has pulled each of us out of a miry clay and set us on a rock. He has begun, and continues to clean us up and polish us and make us to shine. God’s not going to remove those tattoos. But if you’re truly desiring to please God and work for Him, He will find a way to use you. Let Him decide how He’s going to handle the tattoos and piercings. My contention is this, having studied this from a few angles, that if you are serious about serving God and still believe that getting even more tattoos or piercings is acceptable, I fear you’re ignorant of what the Bible principles are that apply to this issue. If you’re the person that sees nothing wrong with being a serious minded Christian willing to be discipled by the Lord while continuing to add tattoos and piercings, I hope you change your mindset.
My first argument is that we are to be holy because we are considered by the Bible to be holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in us now: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (First Corinthians 3:16-17). If we are saved and the Holy Spirit of God lives within us, what kind of God is portrayed when we have such an unholy appearance on the exterior? We would look at a dilapidated building of a slumlord and the first thing we would say to ourselves is that this landlord could care less who lives in his building. We would think that the slumlord cares very little about his tenant. Well, the way we present our physical bodies to the world says a lot about whether we think much of the Spirit residing within.
Tattoos are a deliberate blemish on our bodies. A naturally occurring freckle is also a blemish, but God put it there. A birthmark may be very conspicuous and downright hideous, but God put it there. Tribal markings are deliberate. Studs pierced through tongues are deliberate. Nose rings, naval rings, eyebrow piercings are all unseemly and deliberate. The serious minded Christian who tattoos their body and pokes holes in places holes don’t belong are doing a bad thing. Imagine the Israelites spray painting the tabernacle in the wilderness, or poking it through with numerous spears. Imagine if Solomon’s temple had been spray painted with tribal markings, how much that would have taken away from its glory! The Bible says that we are “…fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works…” (Psalm 139:14). God has made us and we are a wonderful creation. It’s God’s prerogative to mar us with freckles and birthmarks, but it’s not our prerogative to mar ourselves deliberately. Therefore, because tattoos and piercings deface God’s property (First Corinthians 6:20) they are, in my understanding of the Bible, unholy in nature.
Secondly. Tattoos and piercings have their origins in the ungodly, unregenerate, and pagan world. Just doing a simple Google® search will reveal that fact. But let me save you the time and effort. Leviticus 19 deals with many rules and laws meant to keep Israel from taking part in the heathen ways of the world. Among the many do’s and don’ts in the chapter is Leviticus 19:28 which states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, NOR PRINT ANY MARKS UPON YOU: I am the Lord.” God forbade it because it was a practice associated with, and being followed by the heathen, ungodly, and unregenerate souls around them. It’s got worldly origins and an ungodly heritage. Therefore, Isaiah 52:11 tells us to stay away from the unclean thing. Spiritually speaking, the unclean thing is the way of the world, and Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world. James 4:4 says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” And First John 2:15-16 says, “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. 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.”
How much more unclean can the world’s ways be described other than with the terms “lust” and “pride.” Which brings me to another observation about tattoos and piercings and how they go against the grain of Christianity. There is no other reason for getting tattoos and piercings other than to bring attention to yourself or a specific part of your body by drawing other people’s eyes to your body. The only way you can argue against that is to have a tattoo placed where no one else can see it…like the inside of your eyelids. Other than that, even a tattoo in your intimate areas are likely there for a reason…for someone else of your choosing to look there. Understand that tattoos and piercings can be a stumbling block to some people.
Modesty, or lack there of, is the third argument against tattoos and piercings. Women who wear midriff shirts and expose their naval may have them pierced or tattooed around. This will draw men’s eyes (like it’s meant to) and may cause a man to commit mental adultery as described in Matthew 5:28. Likewise, a tattoo on the small of the back (a very common place) is inches away from another area that may cause a man to lust. Also, there is a segment of society that has certain fetishes and the most common is a foot fetish, and where do most of your “cute and innocent” teddy bear or dolphin tattoos usually end up…on the ankles. Really, there is no other reason for a tattoo or a piercing other than to bring attention to yourself and get the accolades of others in your sub-culture who will praise you for the work that’s been done on your body.
A tongue piercing is all it takes for me to ascribe a “reputation” on a person, especially a female. That “reputation” may be undeserved, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that thinks that way. If you’re a Christian, it’s unfair to you, the Church, and Christ to give anyone any opportunity to think you are something when you’re not. To be honest, a tongue piercing is trampy and slutty and doesn’t belong on a Christian. Take them out and change your “reputation.” This is why I stress that if you are a serious minded Christian, you should already intrinsically know you shouldn’t even entertain the idea of getting one!!! They are NOT a witnessing tool. The scars from where you have removed your piercings can be a good starting point for explaining how God has changed your life and how piercings didn’t fit with what God was trying to do with your life. Be different!!!
That brings me to the fourth Biblical principal that argues against tattoos and piercings. That is the principal of separation. As Christians, we have to dare to be different. Tattoos and piercings are just like anything else…we can’t walk with one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom. Do we want to partake in an activity that has such terrible things associated with it? Remember, tattoos were used to denote ownership during the times of slavery. The Jews during the Holocaust were tattooed for identification purposes. Gangs use it for identification, and tattoos like tear drops in gang culture sometimes denotes the number of killings they’ve done. Consider the end times. Whether or not the “mark of the beast” will end up being a tattoo remains to be seen, but let’s just suppose that it is…The mere fact that Satan will use a tattoo in such an evil way should show us who’s for tattoos.
Let’s take a quick look at separation and try to reconcile Christians getting tattoos in that light. One commentary suggests six areas we should be sure to apply strict separatist standards. First, we should separate from anything that is against a standard of biblical purity. Can tattoos and piercings ever be wholly and totally pure? Second, we should separate ourselves from violating a clear biblical prohibition…like Leviticus 19:28? We need to, thirdly, separate from things that will harm. Is it possible that getting tattoos and piercings as a serious minded Christian could harm our testimonies? The fourth thing we need to separate ourselves is from anything that can harm our bodies…infections from unclean procedures can harm the only body we along with the rare but possible spread of diseases (i.e. Hepatitis). We need to void doing anything that would trip up anyone else not as strong as we are, and that is a big one if you are a serious minded Christian who wants to help disciple younger believers. Lastly, we need to separate ourselves from anything that would cause us to fail to follow the example of Christ. On that last one, think really hard and listen to that voice way down deep in your heart that will admit to the fact that Christ would NEVER get tattoos or piercings and He would NEVER tolerate his closest followers getting them.
When Christ affected people’s lives in the Bible, it was expected to be a total transformation of conduct and desires. In Romans 12:2, the command to be transformed has the root word METAMORPHOO, which is a word in Greek that means to change into ANOTHER form. A form separate from the last form. A new creature of sorts (Second Corinthians 5:17). A Greek dictionary explains that word in relation to Romans 12:2 in this way: “The obligation being to undergo a complete change which, under the power of God, will find expression in character and conduct.” That is why it’s hard to reconcile getting tattoos and piercings AFTER trying to submit your life to grow in Christ. Where is the change in character and conduct? Did God not change your desire for modesty to one that is different than one would expect to find in a person indulging in tattoos and piercings?
Allowing your children and yourself to get tattoos despite what the biblical principals state is compromise, plain and simple. So many standards that were alive and well in the church 100 years ago are all but eroded away. I guess if you’re a serious minded Christian contemplating getting more tattoos or piercings, the question you need to ask yourself is this: Is what I’m doing going to water down the effectiveness of the church? Am I going to get more tattoos and piercings and thereby make it seemingly OK for others in the church to get their first one? Because I’ll tell you what will happen. A pastor will be faced with the decision to allow, or decline someone from serving in a leadership role because of issues like tattoos and piercings. Now, you’ll have unhappy people who are all tattooed-up and want to serve, and if the pastor does allow them to serve, it only opens the door for other people with other “gray area” activities to seek to be allowed to serve, despite what they’re involved in. Do you want to fan the flames of compromise in your own church, thereby causing headaches for your pastor and maybe even water down the very church you want to serve in?
Again, let me stress that I am not against people who have tattoos and piercings. I’m against Christians who are serious minded and want to grow in the Lord, going out and continuing in an activity, and being part of a subculture that does not glorify God in the majority of their activities. It was forbidden by God in Leviticus. It’s got heathen origins. Its history of use is very suspect, and its possibility of being used in the end times is reason enough we should avoid it. It does not portray biblical separation, but does reek of compromise…one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom.
By the way, in Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, each tattoo on his body would move and tell a story. Look at what you want to do to your body and see what story it tells?