Tattoo You

by Aaron

We have a lot of people who come to Element who have Tattoos, I know, a lot of churches do, but a lot of ours were gotten after they became Christians. I personally have three, our drummer has five, and a another person who attends has a gazillion. There are a lot of questions that float around about this so I will do my best to talk about tattoos (in a roundabout way).

Also, none of this is meant to imply anyone has to, or should, get a tattoo.

Eph 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

When we speak of "The Law" most people do not mean the whole Old Testament, but merely the first five books, the Torah.

In the Torah you will read:

  • don’t wear 2 types of clothing, so any person in modern clothes would be in sin.
  • before you poo, dig a hole, so if you use a toilet then you aren't digging a hole.
  • don’t eat fish from bottom of the sea, so if you eat shrimp, you are in sin.

We must understand that there are different contexts and different cultures, and many "laws" are not applicable to us.

The Old Testament laws are broken into 3 categories.

Moral Laws – This would be things like don’t kill anyone, don’t steal anything, and honor your parents. These are still binding today. We cannot say, “Oh, it's the New Testament...I am going to kill my parents.”

Civil Laws – In the Old Testament Israel was to be a theocratic country, so God gives laws for how His people are to conduct themselves AS HIS COUNTRY (His nation). America, today, is not a theocracy which means that God is not our president. Whoever our elected official is, that is our president (and if anyone in anyway thinks that any president is God, they have deep issues that they need help with).

In Romans 13 it reminds us the we live in nations with governments, and we need to respect those governments as long as they don’t violate God’s moral commands. Civil laws are fulfilled in CHRIST and are nonbinding. America is NOT the new Israel and not a theocracy.

Ceremonial law – This is what Paul is speaking of in Eph 2 with “laws and regulations.” This would be the priesthood and sacrificial system, where you would go to the temple with an animal and the priest would slaughter it. The blood would then run out of the temple. That has been fulfilled in Christ as He IS the temple, He IS the priest, He IS the sacrifice. The whole ceremonial system was pointing to Jesus. That is the whole point of the book of Hebrews.

So now that those distinctions have been taken away we can be reconciled to each other.

  • Before Jesus, God’s people ate different foods and couldn’t go to other people’s house for dinner, now we can.
  • Before Jesus, God's people wore different clothes and couldn’t be near others who weren’t like us.
  • Before Jesus, God's people spoke a different language and couldn’t communicate.

Now, today in the New Covenant, it is not about culture, it is about Christ. All the dividing points are taken away (it doesn’t matter your music style, clothes, haircut) the issue is DO YOU LOVE JESUS. It becomes about Jesus and not our cultural distinctive(s).

Now, for Tattoos...

The verse that people use for NOT getting tattoos is Lev 19:28 `Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." The problem with taking this verse the way that most who hate tattoos do, is that it is out of context. This whole section in Leviticus is all over the map between civil laws and moral laws.

In Lev 19:19 it says

  • Keep my decrees.
  • Do not mate different kinds of animals.
  • Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
  • Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

My dad is a farmer, they have a little over 300 acres that they farm. They have broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and cabbage all next to each other; does that make him a wicked sinner? No.

In Lev 19:27 it tells guys NOT to cut their sideburns...does that make most men today wicked sinners (well, yes, but not because of sideburns-haha).

But then in 19:29 it says "`Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. Is this moral or cultural? Of course this is moral.

The hard thing about Leviticus is that it was there to separate light from dark, death from life, and sin from righteousness for the Israelites. We take these verses  and make it into a HOW TO manual for every part of life, not understanding much of the nuances underneath it.

The word we translate as "tattoo" simply meant "impression, inscription, or mark." It could have been a number of things. Many of the people the Israelites were traveling among would mark their slaves with tattoos to show that they were property. One of the things God is simply telling His people is that they are to belong to no one but Him. God wanted the Israelites FREE so they could worship Him in freedom.

I don't think tattoos have the same connotation they once did...or mean the same thing. I do not believe that THAT law is binding. BUT...the other question (and the more important question) is "do they honor God." 1 Cor 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I think a better question today is "why is someone wanting one." Is it to honor themselves or to honor God.

I believe they can honor God, but it should be done after much consideration.