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Can christians have tattoos
Can Christians Have Tattoos?
Can Christians have Tattoos?
Tattoos seem to be everywhere these days, they are on rock stars, actors and actresses, professional athletes, service men and women, and even on some pastors. A nationwide Harris poll found that 16 percent of all adults have at least one tattoo. The highest incidence was found among Americans age 25 to 29 (36 percent) and those age 30 to to 39 (28 percent) (Sever). Among University students, it's reported that 23 percent had one to three tattoos (CNN/Money). According to U.S. News and World Report, tattooing is the country's sixth fastest growing retail business, growing at the the rate of one new tattoo parlor opening it's doors every day. One estimate has 30,000 tattoo and body piercing artists working in the U.S. with at least eight major tattoo magazines being published regularly (DeMello 13).
Since tattoos have become so ubiquitous in our society today it has become a hotbed of controversy in the Christian community. Most traditionalist Christians will say that getting a tattoo is a sin antithetical to Christianity because the bible says that it is, typically citing Leviticus 19:28. So, the question that presents itself is getting a tattoo a sin and does the bible expressly forbid a believer to not get tattoos? If the Levitical verse is viewed in light of why this command was given, other verses in the Bible and the work of Christ, tattoos in and of themselves are not sinful and not prohibited to believers.
Tattoos and the Bible
The only verse in the Bible that forbids tattoos is Leviticus 19:28 which states "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoos yourselves: I am the Lord your God" (ESV). This at first seems cut and dry upon first reading it but if we look into why this law was given we come out with a clearer understanding. During this time, after the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites were given these laws to set them apart from pagan nations. In this period, tattoos signified ownership and devotion, it was a common practice in Egypt as well as Babylon to tattoo a slave with his owner's name or the name of a god. According to theologians Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich in The Theological dictionary of the New Testament, Tattooing and acts of self mutilation were also religious mourning rites associated with the Canaanite fertility god (Kittel 660). According to Kittel the idolatrous nature of tattoos in the Israelite culture he explains is " when a person was tattooed he became dedicated to the god and became its servant, as well as came under its protection, so as not to be harmed" (Kittel 660). Hence tattoos were strongly affiliated with idolatrous practices and were strictly forbidden because it was viewed as contrary to the sole ownership and devotion that was to be only Jehovah God's. Another contextual issue that those who support the view that tattoos are sinful or contrary to God will also have to come to the conclusion that those who shave their beards, cut their hair or eat a medium rare steak are also sinning according to the preceding verses in Leviticus. Almost no one these days will say that those particular areas are contrary to God now and were merely cultural customs.
Free in Christ
Another thing that needs to be addressed is that are we as believers under the Levitical laws of the Old Testament. According to Paul in the New Testament we are no longer bound to the sacrificial and ritual laws and we are now free in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:13- 15 states " But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of expressing in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace". In Romans 10:4 further states "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes". And 1 Corinthians 10:23 goes one more step further in saying that "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful, all things are lawful but not all things build up". Now clearly Christ didn't end all law, for example, moral laws on killing, stealing and lying, but He did end all the rules and regulations regarding the temple worship. Also those things which were once forbidden like the dietary laws are permissible, however they may still be unhealthy and not beneficial to our overall health. Tattoos according to this assumption would be permissible however it's a different story if tattoos are beneficial or build up.
Tattoos the Christians Choice
Pastor Mark Driscoll lead pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington wrote in His book The Radical Reformission that "Restrictive Christians go too far and name everything a universal sin, forbidding some cultural activities that the Bible does not, such as listening to certain music styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol, and body piercing (103). The author of this paper also would have to agree with Pastor Driscoll that Christians can be too restrictive and thus become like Jesus' nemesis in his day the Pharisees, who were so legalistic that they thought that they were too sinless for grace that Christ had to offer. Let us not make judgements and restrictions based on tradition and cultural standards but let us judge people for what is in their hearts.