Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Should a Christian Have a Tatoo?

What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos? Is it a Sin?
Besides looking into what the Bible says about tattoos, together we'll consider the concerns surrounding tattooing today and present a self quiz to help you decide if getting a tattoo is right or wrong.
A. The answer, I believe, is yes and no.

To Tattoo or Not To?
This is a question many Christians struggle with. I believe tattooing falls into the category of "disputable matters" where the Bible is not clear. There's no commandment - "Thou shalt not receive a tattoo." For this reason, tattooing raises many doubts and questions.
There are Scriptures, however, to back up the idea that God is not in favor of tattooing. Robert Henry is a Christian with several tattoos. In Prodigal Son Magazine, Henry's article, Tattoo: Is it a Sin?, discusses the argument beginning with this verse in Leviticus 19:28 - "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord." (NIV)

Henry states, "Now, this seems pretty clear cut and to the point, until one reads a little more of the context ... just a little earlier in the chapter we see that it says in verse 9, "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest." And still more, in verse 19, it goes on to say, "Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed." Now, I am not sure how many farmers are reading this, but one must be a little taken back by this prohibition. As well, in verse 26 it says, "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material," and "Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it." And in verse 27, "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." Now we know this is a little more ridiculous for us to abide by. Accordingly, we would all be willful partakers in sinful acts all the time."

By examining the context, Henry points out that all people today who eat non-kosher meat (meat that has not had the blood drained) or cut their hair would be guilty of sin, if we were to embrace this verse literally. The instruction from God in Leviticus was for a specific time and purpose.

So What is the Big Concern Regarding Tattoos Today?
If you are considering the question, "To tattoo or not to?" I think the more serious questions to ask yourself are: What are my motives for wanting a tattoo? Am I seeking to glorify God or draw attention to myself? Will my tattoo be a source of contention for my loved ones? Will getting a tattoo cause me to disobey my parents? Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble?
In my article, "What to Do When the Bible is Not Clear," we discover that God has given us a means to judge our motives and weigh our decisions. Romans 14:23 states, "...everything that does not come from faith is sin." Now that's pretty clear!

Instead of asking, "Is it okay for a Christian to get a tattoo," perhaps a better question might be, "Is it okay for me to get a tattoo?"

Since tattooing is such a controversial issue today, I think it's important to examine your heart and your motives before you make the decision.

Self Exam - To Tattoo or Not To?
Here is a self-exam based on the ideas put forth in Romans 14. These questions will help you decide whether or not getting a tattoo is a sin for you:
How does my heart and my conscience convict me? Do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord regarding the decision to get a tattoo?
Am I passing judgment on a brother or sister because I don't have freedom in Christ to receive a tattoo?
Will I cause a weaker brother to stumble if I receive a tattoo?
Is my decision based on faith and will the result be glorifying to God?
Ultimately, the decision is between you and God. Though it may not be a black and white issue, there is a right choice for each individual. Take some time to honestly answer these questions and the Lord will show you what to do.

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