Monday, November 12, 2012

Can a Christian Get a Tattoo?

A Common Question - "Is it a sin to get a tattoo?"
"Please read entire post before forming a conclusion"

Introductory Matters:
There are a few questions that must be answered when dealing with a question like this. We must be careful to not create laws that God has not created or ignore laws that God has established. Some question to consider are as follows: 1. Does the New Testament specifically forbid Christians from getting a tattoo? 2. Are certain moral principles violated through getting a tattoo? 3. Is there any situation where a tattoo would be sinful?

Arguments Reviewed:
There are many arguments that people use against tattoos. Some of these arguments are more valid than others. These arguments will be reviewed here:

Argument #1 - Leviticus 19:28 forbids Christians from getting tattoos! --- Does it really??
First off, this section of Scripture also forbids trimming the sides of ones hair and shaping a beard. To be consistent one would have to follow all of these commands. (However, just because one is inconsistent, does not always negate their argument).

Second, the Christian is not under the Old Law. The Old Law was given to Israel for a specific purpose. The Old Law was designed to lead one to Christ and once Jesus came, it was no longer needed.Note Galatians 3:23-25:
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  
Trying to prove that tattoos are a sin from this Old Testament law would be as incorrect as requiring one to perform animal sacrifice. This was a God ordained law for a specific purpose at one time, but the Christian is not under that law today.

Argument #2 - 1 Corinthians 6:19 says our bodies are a temple, thus getting a tattoo would be defiling the temple of God! --- Is this true?
The context of 1 Corinthians 6:19 is a command for the Christian to not participate in sexual immorality. Note the surrounding verses (16-20):
Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.  
The point of the section is "don't commit sexual sin". The motivation for not committing sexual sin is the reality of the Christian being a temple of the Spirit. When one "joins himself with prostitute" it is as if he is defiling the very temple of God. 

Our bodies are designed to glorify God and not participate in sin. This passage does not apply to tattoos, piercings, eating fatty foods, not exercising or the many other points people try to make from it. It is, however, a great passage for proving the importance of not committing sexual sin.

Argument #3 - Your influence will be affected.There is some validity to this argument. Obviously a person who has a cuss word tattooed on their forehead is going to be looked down upon by many in society.  This author knew a man who had several "White Pride" tattoos on his back. This man since left that type of lifestyle, but anyone who caught a glimpse of those tattoos would think less of him.

We should never do anything that would harm our influence on others. My task is to lead people to Christ and my appearance should not get in the way. In some circles having my arms sleeved with tattoos would not hurt my influence, in other circles it would. These are some legitimate thoughts to consider.

Argument #4 - The tattoo parlors are a negative environment.
This is another argument that may have some validity. Often times tattoo studios have a lot of images that are pornographic or promote sinful behavior like drug use or satanism. Immodesty is very common due to the location of many tattoos on one's body. Not all places where one can get a tattoo promote sinful behaviors, but many do. This too is something to consider, why is it that so often people get tattoos of negative things (like skulls or other items associated with death).

Final Answer - Can a Christian get a tattoo?
  1. Although NOT implicitly wrong there are some times when getting a tattoo would be sinful. Getting a tattoo would be sinful if:
  2. If the tattoo promoted something immoral or ungodly (nude person, foul language, the Devil, etc.).
  3. If it was done for vain reasons. (To make you look tough/cool etc. Or to try to just get people to look at you).
  4. If it severely harmed your influence. This is a judgement call that each individual will have to make, it may be best to exercise extra caution in this area.
  5. If it was placed in a location that allowed the tattoo artist to look at parts of your body that only your spouse should see or caused people to focus on certain parts of your body.
Tattoos are pretty much permanent. Use wisdom and seek advice before making such a choice. You do not want to do something that you will regret later. One cannot prove from the Bible that tattoos are always sinful, but just because something is not always sinful does not always mean it is a good idea. I know of faithful Christians who have tattoos and their tattoos have not be done in a way that I would think is sinful, at the same time I know of others who got tattoos at one point in their life and now they regret it because of the stigma associated with them.
 Post by Cliff Sabroe
Image from True Artists Blog "Tattoos in the Workplace"