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  • Braden Rodriguez

Do I Care About Your Tattoos?

As the title suggests, today we will talk about your tattoos, and/or the tattoos you want. The answer to this question is yes and no. Do I care about your tattoos? Yes, because I care about you. I love you as a brother and sister in Christ, and if you are not a brother or sister, I still care. I like to know what art you have, what ways you express yourself, because one, I genuinely care about you as a person; and two, I like art, especially in the form of tattoos.

Do I care about your tattoos? The answer to the questions is also no. A lot of the time, I get questions about if I think it is right to have tattoos or not, or why I believe it is okay to get them. It is for this reason that I do not care about your tattoos. I do not want you to seek my opinion on the tattoos, though I care about you and will tell you. I want you to seek the opinion of the one who has authority over you, namely God. Have you sough him?

If you are married, have you sought this from your spouse. If you are a minor and/or live at home with parents, have you sought this from your parents. If you are working for an employer, have you asked them if it is okay. My wife does not mind. When I lived at home my parents sort of minded but left the decision in my hands. My employers past and present have not and do not mind now. I have sought this biblically, and I do not see where the Lord has told me that I should not. (This is a biblical principal by the way, read Ephesians 5-6 and 1 Peter 2-3)

Do I care about your tattoos? Yes, because I love you. No, because I am not your ultimate authority. However, because I have tattoos and many people ask. I do care to try and give you the best biblical answer as possible.

Are Tattoos Sinful?

Many of you will now say in your minds, either because you believe this or you simply have heard this, what about that passage in Leviticus where it says that you should not have tattoos? To quote fellow believer Jefferson Bethke, “out of context…” you are correct. Out of context, it does blatantly say that you do not need to do that. However, "out of context" are how many things get led down the wrong path and heresies are formed. Not to say someone has started an anti-tattoo Levitical law cult or is being a heretic, but in context, there is a lot more than tattoos that we must worry about. Let us put this in the immediate context with just a couple extra verses.

“When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the Lord your God.26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:23-28 ESV)

This gives us more things that we should live by, if we say, tattoos are sinful. This passage tells us to not eat fruit until it has been hanging out for five years of growth, and in the fourth year it must be given to God before we get to partake. We must not eat meat that has blood in it, so no under cooked steaks or burgers. We also must not trim out bears a certain way. Lastly, we must not get tattoos.

Let us be very honest with ourselves, I presume that those who do not get tattoos or condemn others for having them, using this passage, do not keep all of these laws as well. I know I do not. I ate steak not that long ago, praise the Lord. I trimmed my beard this week. (I am working on no shave November, so I only trimmed the neck.) I know that I ate fruit that was not cultivated for three years, then offered to God on the fourth year, and that is now five years old. I have broken so many laws, and I am sure they who use this as evidence would be breaking the laws too.

What then do we need to know about this passage? What do we need to know as believers? We secondly need to look at the historical background of the time. What did the Israelites not have? Pesticides, refrigerators, modern medicine, and they were surrounded by pagans. These laws were set by God to help them be holy and be safe. God did not take the joy out of eating fruit right away and eating undercooked meat just to be mean. Think about it, there are no doctors and modern pills to help you if you catch a worm or bug from eating that nasty fruit or under cooked meat. It was possible they would die. That is even something that is liable to happen to you today. (I have seen the videos of worms coming out of the raw meat, and it is gross.) Also, pagans were worshiping the dead by tattoos and cutting themselves. God essentially says, "You are mine. I do not want you to look like them who cut themselves to worship false gods, so do not be like them. Be different."

So you may say context is key, and I agree. That is the immediate and historical context, but let us look now at the wholistic biblical context. Paul says this,

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet. (Romans 7:1-7 ESV)

We as believers must realize Christ came and fulfilled the law and he has released us from living to every command in the Mosaic law, we do not have to offer sacrifices anymore, we live in a different time and culture, and we have the Holy Spirit now.

Let me be very clear. What I am not saying is the Old Testament does not matter, because the Old Testament does matter, and there are some laws that we still should keep that come from the Mosaic law, but Christ has set us free from the law and sin and death. If we are in him, we should not even want to attempt to break the law anymore, we should seek to live more holy, rather than less holy. The law is good, just not for saving us. That is why we have Jesus. That is why he came and was perfect. That is why he died on a cross as a sacrifice. So that I do not have to offer anymore sacrifices. So that I could live freely with him. So that I could live differently with him.

Many people will also quote Paul in saying that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. As a believer, you are. What those folks want to say is that you should not have tattoos based on this. However, in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 where it says that you are the temple, it is regarding being sexually immoral. You are the temple of God if you are a believer, so do not join yourself to anyone in an immoral manner, not “don’t get a tattoo.” There is more at stake than your skin, it is your soul Paul is worried about. He wants you to know that you are hosting God and when you sin sexually, you are hurting your temple in which God dwells. Again, it is for the reason of unity and freedom with God.

Would I say tattoos are sinful, well first I am not God, so I am not your ultimate authority, but based off the biblical evidence, I would have to say it is probably not a sin. This does not mean you should have them.

Should I Have a Tattoo?

Again, I have tattoos, so do hear me as a hypocrite or a fan, hear me as a brother in Christ that wants you to follow the Spirit. I do not think that in today’s culture tattoos are inherently evil, sinful, or pagan. On the contrary, I think they are socially acceptable for the most part. The question remains though, why do you want the tattoo? Is it because you want to flex? Is it because you want it to make you look better? Is it because you think they will make you cooler? Is it because you want to fit in? Is it because you want to be hateful? I would say if it is for any of those reasons, you should not get it. 1 Peter and 1 Timothy talk on a subject like this.

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 1 Timothy 2:8-9 ESV

3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV

What these two apostles are saying is that they do not want people to come in wearing there best. Flexing over others. Showing they look better than others. Showing they come from a better place than others. What these apostles want are people to show their inner heart. God wants people who are beautiful on the inside, marked by love. The disciple John quotes Jesus saying that, “ by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35 ESV)

What do people see you as? Do people see you as a disciple of Christ that loves them and wants the best for them, that happens to have tattoo? Or do they just see you as that jerk that thinks your better than them, and just so happen to have tattoos to show them off? My hope is that people see me marked in the way of love.

It is my strong goal to show the love of Christ to people in all places and times, and yes I just so happen to have tattoos, and I do not really care to show them all off to you. I have visible tattoos on my arms. These I have used to help reach others with the Gospel, I have had people ask me about them, and I have gotten to share with them about my love for the savior, Jesus Christ. Some of my tattoos, to be truthful, I got because I like the art of tattooing. They have a look and a skill behind them that are admirable and intriguing to me. They are not pagan worship. Do they share the gospel, no, but do people see me as showing them off, no.

Hopefully you would see me as loving, more than just the guy with tattoos. My wife would say I am loving. My family would say I am loving. My friends would say I am loving. My waiters and waitresses would say that I am loving. Why, because I have been changed by Jesus, not because I have been changed by tattoos.

***Some great resources are videos by Jefferson Bethke and John Piper on tattoos. You can find them online. These are the videos I have watched that have helped me in my searching for answers, and you may find some of these references and themes to be in them. Thank you to them for their help. Thank God for his grace and for sending Jesus.

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