Posted: March 10, 2012 in Social Concerns

Many, if not all of us, in the world of tattoo have had Leviticus 19:28 thrown in our faces “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” Usually it is meant to condemn either our profession or our obviously decorated skin. So what is a Christian tattooist or tattoo enthusiast to say? Is tattooing indeed defiling the temple of the Holy Spirit? Are we callously ignoring God’s commandment? Let’s shed some light on the subject by looking at it through Scriptural doctrines the law with its conviction, and grace with its freedom. First, by researching references to Leviticus 19:28, we find it refers to a heathen practice meant to invoke the attention of pagan gods and usually by means of cutting oneself to “prove” one’s sincerity (see also Lev. 21:5, Jer. 16:6, and Deut. 14:1). It was an attempt to make one worthy to approach some graven image of a god through self-abasement. God rightly admonished His chosen people not to follow the pagan rituals of such false “religions”. However, some critics will still hold fast to the literal letter of the law and conclude that regardless of its textual meaning, the act of tattooing is still forbidden granted, the entire Bible is indeed the inspired literal Word of the living God, but it also represents a progressive revelation of its Author His nature, His grace and His plan for redemption. Taken in the context of God’s plan to restore mankind into fellowship with Him, the law was given to show us that we could not redeem ourselves by our own efforts. Paul writes in Romans that the law that it was given to reveal sin will justify no man. Only through faith in the free gift of God’s grace, found in the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, can man be justified (ROM 3:20-26). In fact, Jesus actually redeemed us from the law and its curse (Gal. 3:13, see also Gal. 3:22). But if one wants to live by the law the Old Covenant then one must keep all of it (Jas. 2:10). Transgressing any part of the law means we are guilty of transgressing all of it. According to Levitical law, we may not eat the meat of rabbits or pigs (Lev. 11:6-7), nor lobsters, crabs, prawns, oysters or clams (Lev. 11:10-12). Hybrid breeding of livestock and mixing linen and wool in fabrics is prohibited (Lev. 19:19). Shaving the sides of your head (being clean shaven) or disfiguring the edges of your beard (trimming) is also forbidden (Lev. 19:27). So if you’ve ever eaten a pork sandwich, dined on Maine lobster, trimmed your beard or worn wool blend suit or have gotten a tattoo you’re guilty under the law! Thank God that He has provided a better way for us to be reconciled to Him! A New Covenant! Romans 5:1-2 says we are justified by faith, given right standing with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (see also Rom. 5:8-11). The entire 5th chapter of Galatians deals with this issue contrasting the law and liberty, the lusts of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. Under the New Covenant, all the law is fulfilled in loving God with all your heart, soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40). Jesus fulfilled the law and now our right standing with God is based upon His right standing. Our righteousness is based upon His righteousness not on the law. Galatians 2:21 puts it this way, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” In Paul’s day there was controversy over whether a believer would be defiled by eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul addressed this at length. In his understanding, the eating of that meat was neither good nor bad of itself. It was the attitude of the heart that was important. Heart motive either cleansed the meat or condemned the eater. Yet while all things were legal to Paul, not all things were without consequences. (Read the 14th chapter of Romans and I Corinthians, chapter 8.) Paul affirmed the freedom we have in Christ, but he also warned us to beware that our liberty does not become a stumbling block for others. With liberty comes responsibility. A word of caution: do not flaunt your Christian freedom. One man’s freedom can be another’s downfall. Yeah, so what about our body being the “temple” of God? Doesn’t tattooing defile it? Well, let’s look at the context of those scriptures (I Cor. 3:16, 6:19, II Cor. 6:16). In the first instance, Paul is addressing envy, strife and division in the church at Corinth and warning them to be careful of what is built upon the foundation laid down by Jesus lest the temple be defiled. In chapter 6, he refers to sexual immorality as defiling the temple of the body. In II Corinthians Paul warns against tainting the bodily temple with idol worship. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 15:11 that it is what comes out of the mouth of man that defiles him that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt.12: 34-35). It is the love, purity and faith that come out of your heart that keeps your temple holy or it is the strife, immorality and unbelief within your heart that defiles it. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. As Christians we should take dead aim at the devil and his unholy minions, not at brothers and sisters in the Lord who happen to be decorated (or those who are not). Paul himself advises us not to engage in foolish disputes and arguments over the law. He calls it useless and unprofitable (Titus3: 9).

  1. Washington says:

    That was very informative and I’m inclined to believe it. As you say you, you shall be judged by what is in your heart. If you have tatoos to glorify certain gods then you are in trouble. gods here referingto all that distracts you from worshipping The Lord. Nevertheless, tatoo’s were considered gateways to invoking and welcoming evil spirits to dwell in your soul. That could prove troublesome even if you were doing it with different intentions. As they say ignorance is no defence. It best no to court fire without fully understanding it.

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