I did not make the decision to get a tattoo lightly. The reception of my new tattoo wasn’t taken lightly either!
Reactions varied from, Oh that’s so awesome! To was that what you really wanted? To mild shock, and some people were even disappointed in me.
The most surprising reactions came from other Christians like myself. Some coming right out telling me I would lose my salvation if I got a tattoo.
The most common verse quoted to me was Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
Others have told me that my body was not my own, that it belonged to God and I had no right to alter his masterpiece. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I guess we have to ask ourselves-
What does the Bible really say about tattoos?
When we look back at the Old Testament laws, we must do so through the understanding of the customs & rituals of that specific time period.
God gave the command about tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) to the Israelites around 1444 B.C. Right after the parting of the Red Sea, to forbid them from practicing the idolatrous customs they had picked up while they were being held captive by the Egyptians.
Their captors, the Egyptians, had a custom of slashing themselves to express grief & to appease their idols & gods. They also tattooed their bodies with symbols of pagan gods.
So God, basically said to the Israelites, I don’t want you to practice those silly superstitions. You ARE my people & I love you. So, you don’t need to do that to yourself anymore.
The HEART of God’s message isn’t about the tattoos, but it’s about reminding the Israelites that they belong to Him and there is no need for those rituals anymore.
In the New Testament, Jesus gave us a new way to understand the law. He actually fulfilled the law for us (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus completed the requirements of the law (those rules written back in Leviticus) because God knew we could never live up to them. Because of Jesus, we have a repaired relationship with God (Romans 10:4-13).
If Christians today adhered to the legit literal application of every ceremonial rule & law handed down to the Israelites, No one would be able to –
• Eat shrimp or hamburgers (Leviticus 11)
• Mothers would be considered “unclean” after childbirth which means 40 days of separation from society after a boy, and even twice as long after a girl. (Leviticus 12) (now that I’m thinking about it would actually be amazing to put that law back in place!)
• Menstruating women would have to separate from friends and family for 7 to 10 days during that time of month (Leviticus 15)
• You wouldn’t be allowed to shave your beard or cut your hair. (Leviticus 19)
So is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?
It depends on how you look at it I guess.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is a great verse to read when considering a tattoo:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
The most important question to ask is,
“Will me getting a tattoo honor God?”
The tattoo I picked is a portion of a bible verse. Genesis 50:20, “ you intended to harm me; but God intended it all for good.”
I purposefully & prayerfully put my tattoo on my right forearm. So, when I shake peoples hands they will notice it & hopefully ask me about it. It will allow me to have deeper conversations about my past & my faith with people I normally wouldnt get an opportunity to share Jesus with.
People who would NEVER ask me about my FAITH, will ask me about my TATTOO.
I can share how Christ provided a way out of my abusive relationship & how He helped me recover from it.
How He gave me his strength & hope to travel half way across the country by myself without any money, no job and no place to live to escape my abuser.
How He handpicked & saved my husband specifically for me, so I would be able to experience a healthy marriage.
How He brought us though infertility and provided a way to have a family.
How He remained strong for us while I was fighting for my life in the hospital with sepsis.
That no matter how hard the things we go though that God will work it out for good.
It’s a reminder that my enemy will always try to harm me, and will try to find any way he can to stop me from sharing my faith & story.
If your motives are to glorify His work in your life (Romans 14:23), then a tattoo can be an excellent conversation starter and tool to use!
Just as we are commanded to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), we can view the act of tattooing in the same manner.
The Old Testament law no longer binds Christians. Avoiding tattoo parlors, not eating shrimp or hamburgers and refusing to cut your hair doesn’t make you righteous-
Your acceptance of Jesus does!
His death and resurrection do!
While yes, you should honor God and remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16), you don’t have to let other people’s sense of religious rules constrain you from the truth.