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Should Christians Get Tattoos?

I want one, but my Bible study girlfriends insist Scripture prohibits body art.
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Q: Should Christians get tattoos? I want one, but my Bible study girlfriends insist Scripture prohibits body art.

A: Christians getting tattoos is a timely and controversial topic. Google this issue, and you'll see opinions varying from "Go for it!" to "You'll go to hell for it." Many Christians have grappled with the tattoo question.

What does the Bible say?

Ink opponents typically ignore the verse that says God "inscribed" a picture of his people on his palms (Isaiah 49:16, NASB; the Amplified Bible says "tattooed"), and instead ominously quote another Old Testament verse: "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:28, ESV). Understanding the context of the Leviticus verse, however, is imperative.

God gave this command to the Israelites around 1444 B.C. (right after the parting of the Red Sea) to forbid them from practicing the idolatrous customs they'd picked up in Egyptian captivity. Their captors had a nasty habit of slashing themselves to express grief and to appease their pantheon of imaginary gods. The Egyptians also tattooed their bodies with symbols of pagan gods. So Jehovah, the only true God, essentially said to the Israelites, I don't want you to practice those silly superstitions anymore. You're my people, and I love you. The heart of God's message isn't about body art, but about reminding the Israelites they belong to him.

Perhaps the gals in your small group didn't consider God's original intent for Leviticus. Because if Christians today adhered to the literal application of every moral and ceremonial rule handed down to the Israelites, no one could eat shrimp or cheeseburgers (Leviticus 11); moms would be "unclean" after childbirth (40 days of separation from society after a boy, twice as long after a girl), so new mothers couldn't go to Beth Moore Bible studies or Curves or book clubs for more than a month (Leviticus 12); menstruating women also would have to separate from friends and family for seven days during that time of month (Leviticus 15); no one could wear clothes woven from both linen and wool (Leviticus 19); and everyone who went out to eat after church could merit a possible stoning (Exodus 31).  

The great news of the gospel is that Old Testament law no longer binds Christians. Avoiding tattoo parlors or Red Lobster doesn't make you righteous—Jesus' death and resurrection do! While you need to remember your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16), you don't have to let other people's sense of religious propriety constrain you.  

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Related Topics:Bible; Body Image; Idolatry; Rules
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Displaying 1–3 of 181 comments

Amanda

June 30, 2012  12:40am

you guys who think tattoos are forbidden are sooooo dumb! i would advise you to read the article you just commented on. and for the one who thinks that tattoos are a bad influence...you may be a parent in this day and age, but youre not a teenager.

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Heather

June 08, 2011  11:03pm

Yay Daddy is sooo awesome he sees our heart and who we are ans who he has made us. Thank You Jesus we all have Holy Spirit to ask so darling ask him and see what he says!!

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Tom Marini

May 28, 2011  6:29am

Though having a tattoo will not send a believer to hell by any means, we have to remember that our bodies are not our own. There is beauty in seperation from the world and pagan practices to our God. He delights in this. We need to be devoted to our God with all our being. Marking our body will not any more help bring a person to salvation than dressing in jeans and t-shirts at church (dress clothes won't either).It does matter to God how we present our bodies to Him. What the world thinks and trying to reach them has nothing to do with this issue. It's all about Him and what He delights in. Looking like the world has never been God's method of evangelism. Being different and loving them with His love is the way out they are looking for.

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