It has come to my attention over the past couple of weeks that there is a huge and heated debate amongst church folk regarding tattoos. I suppose this has come about because tats are so trendy right now, and everyone seems to have one – is getting one – or wants one.
There are a couple of different blogs I read on a regular basis that are written by associate pastors of mega churches. Both guys have major tat work down their right arms. And to their credit, the tats are spiritually based. Both tats are very nice, very big, and very visible. (NOTE: The photo below is NOT of the two pastors.)
Conservatives and legalists say it absolutely is – based on Leviticus 19:28, which says, Do not cut your skin for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.
Liberals and radicals say there is no sin because Leviticus 19 was old law, and as New Testament Christians we’re no longer under the old law.
Let me just say this: I have a tattoo. It’s not a big one, and it’s not in a very visible spot. I got it at 19 years of age, and it is representative of a 19 year old’s thinking. I’m not proud of it, and quite honestly, I no longer like it. I one day hope to have it removed. Not because I think it’s a sin to have it, but because it represents a time in my life when God was absent from my life (at my request). (NOTE: The photo below is NOT me.)
As far as this debate goes – Christian’s getting tats – well, I’m not going to say it’s a sin, because I’m not the judge, but I do think it is a poor decision – especially if it’s a highly visible one. The reason I think it’s a poor decision is because tats are generally associated with a somewhat more rebellious, unpleasant aspect of our society. When I see a person covered in tats, my first thought isn’t, “wow, that person is really expressing themselves well.” But rather, “holy cow, what a moron,” and right or wrong, I want nothing to do with them.
I think tattoos are just one more way we destroy our bodies. Plus, it draws attention to us (often negative attention) in a way that makes it a little bit harder for us to show the world Jesus. Is that wrong? Maybe so. But the world at large still has a stigma against tats, which closes their minds to whatever you’re interested in. Sure, you may reach the fray of society, but you’re evangelism effectiveness in the long run will most likely be compromised if you have visible tats. You may be an associate pastor, children’s pastor, or even a worship pastor and are currently able to pull off the tat thing; but how many senior pastors have you seen that are all marked up? I’ve never seen any, and I’ve been around churches for a while.
Before I go, I’d just like to make an observation. As far as we know, Jesus didn’t have any tattoos, yet, he managed to be 100% effective in his ministry. He was able to reach into all sectors of society and touch people’s lives. He didn’t need to mark his body in a way that screamed, “I’m the Messiah…don’t miss me.” He was effective because his focus was on God and serving the needs of others. People knew there was something different about him from the moment he met them. He didn’t need any outward reminders of who he was, and he didn’t need to advertise it either. As his people, who are called to mirror Him, why do we feel we need to advertise our Christianity…….instead of really living it?