I recently have had a few conversations about tattoos with people, primarily because of the image they seem to give people who wear them. Are they bad? Are they good?
Do you think it is fair to say, “tattoos don’t say, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ”? I tend to think so, even though I have some myself.
Lets look at what the bible says about tattoos, and try to make sense of how it applies to the modern Christian life.
When I was just returning to Christ after a solid seven or eight years of not believing in God at all, I remember taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island to get a tattoo touch up done. It was for a tattoo across my left arm that I’d paid for with the bursary money I received from Vancouver Island University in reward for graduating on the honor roll. While on the ferry, I pondered wanting one more on my wrist, but I had also looked at this passage in Leviticus. I felt guilty about it, but went ahead and did it anyway.
I added five symbols to my right wrist, five text symbols that said something about God. The way in which they were to say something about God was in the order in which they were placed, and their meaning in either mathematics or emoticon syntax. A ϕ ∞ : ) Ω
So here I am, I have personalized symbols that I’ve deemed are about God on one arm, and Haida art on the other, but none of these really say I am a follower of Christ. In fact, they show I have been a disobedient child of God.
Now, I do believe there is room for a truly converted Christian who still bears the marks of his vain youth, to feel like Job when he stated his case in response to his friends accusations, saying of God, (metaphorically in this case)
For You record bitter accusations against me and bequeath to me the iniquities of my youth.
But unlike Job, our tattoos do show that we’ve made some prideful choices, even bequeathing the iniquities of our youth to our own skin. Biblically speaking, these are choices Job would never have made. They are more akin to Cain, the first man to bear a sort of mark upon his skin.
Think of the gentleness we are encouraged to have in Jesus. Truly, if a man were wise enough to have always made mostly righteous choices, then he wouldn’t have been cruel to his own flesh in pursuit of youthful vanity.
I believe we can use this passage in Philippians as a testament to that, and as a warning towards ourselves and others who would be callused enough to say we can have a converted heart while still chasing things like new tattoos.
Watch out for those dogs, those workers of evil, those mutilators of the flesh!
For Pre-existing Tattoos
I’m currently in the process of laser removal for a tattoo on my back that I’ve had since I was nineteen. The removal will cost me some $1,200 or more by the time it’s gone, and the tattoo is only an outline four inches by five inches in area.
Removing our existing tattoos is expensive and not everyone will have the opportunity to do it, so we need to be gentle on those who bear these marks on their skin. We need to look past these scars, and to something a little less superficial like the love they have or need, and their fruits.
Rejoice, O young man, while you are young,
and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.
Walk in the ways of your heart
and in the sight of your eyes,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you to judgment.
So banish sorrow from your heart,
and cast off pain from your body,
for youth and vigor are fleeting.
For the Christian Counter Culture
There are professed believers in this world who will tell us that the bible says good things about tattoos, like that Jesus has one tattooed on his thigh in the book of Revelation; however, we need to avoid rebellion and not chase our youthful lusts by looking for justification. If words didn’t actually proceed from Gods mouth in the way we that pitch them, we become a liar and the truth is not in us.
Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
The passage in Revelation does not say there is a tattoo on Jesus thigh. It says there are words written at the location of his robe, and his thigh. This is symbolic of a king, sword strapped at his thigh and over his robe.
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Think of Ephesians 6:17 which tells us the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Revelation is showing us a picture of Christ triumphant in battle, and the sword of the Spirit still strapped to his hip.
In this matter it is better to repent and find forgiveness, rather than look for a reason not to.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:8-9
Satan first became proud because of his own beauty, so it is best to recognize there’s a real danger in having pride in our God given beauty, or even “beauty” that we’ve manufactured.
This self centered pride is the seed of covetousness, and turns into the desire to have more than we ourselves have been provisioned. As Christians we shouldn’t be chasing tattoos, nor should be proud of them.
I doubt it will ever be safe to judge a man or woman based on the presence tattoos alone; because just about the the time we get it right based on their outward appearance, we’ll also get it wrong where we shouldn’t have. Generalizations can be like discrimination, resulting in a form of darkness.
Meanwhile, I perceive that if God would choose a spotless lamb over one bearing the marks of corruption, then why would he not do the same in regards to his servants? It doesn’t always work like that though, God also chooses the weak to shame the strong, and sometimes that means choosing someone who might otherwise not be counted worthy by even godly men.
Tattoos are a testament to our youthful iniquities, and come from a world blinded towards the wishes of our Creator. They are scars from our time spent near destruction., and being proud of how one has purposefully scarred themselves is more in tune with a gangster mentality.
If we see it the way God does, then tattoos wont bring us any pride; because while scars may make us look toughened, they only tell a story about a woeful thing that happened to the whole of us, one blemish at a time.