When growing up, I remember being told that tattoos were not for Christians and when the basis of such a prohibition was questioned, it was often Leviticus 19:28 that was quoted to substantiate one’s position. Leviticus 19:28 reads “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, not print any marks upon you: I am the Lord“. Such upbringing without the entire context of why such a prohibition exists, made me grow up with a mindset that those with tattoos were not in right standing with the God of the Bible. Now that I recall, I must admit that I viewed those with tattoos judgmentally often with a self-righteous perspective. This verse indicates that the children of God were not to follow the practices (cutting of flesh, printing marks aka tattooing) of those who were not sanctified for the Lord. Another verse that was often quoted to establish that Christians should not have tattoos was from 1 Corinthians 3:16 which states that the body is the temple of the Holy God and it must not be defiled; again the body is to be set apart (sanctified) and Holy. I wholeheartedly concur with the spirit in which both these verses are recorded for us, that we are to be set apart, and through our bodies, bring glory to God, by presenting them as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2).
However, I learned a lesson yesterday that we are not to be judgmental of those who have tattoos or be forbidden from getting one if one desires to glorify God through it. I was at the Salvation Army donation center and an individual named Travis Black (a donor) asked Zane Werner (an employee at Salvation Army) as to what the tattoo in his hand meant. Zane immediately quoted the verse from Matthew 6:33 which says Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. I then asked Zane as to what the language was, in which the tattoo was engraved in his right forearm and he replied ‘Greek’ (click on picture to see a larger image). I then shared about the ministry of Hidden Treasures and asked Zane for his permission to take a picture of his tattoo and to use this encounter to share from the scripture. Zane’s tattoo gave him the opportunity to share about what our priorities must be. He (and his tattoo) reaffirmed that we are to seek God’s kingdom first. The tattoo in his forearm was the one that led to the sharing of his faith. In other words, he used his tattoo to glorify God. Zane’s arm may be tattooed that may make many Christians judge his lifestyle unfortunately, but his heart and words reflected that the style (tattoo) of his life indeed brought honor to God and united three believers (Zane, Travis and I). Our inward lifestyle (controlled by the Holy Spirit that dwells in us) is what matters and not the outward style of our lives.
Now I am not prescribing that we must all go and get ourselves tattooed to use that as launchpads to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it could be considered a stumbling block to some. Whatever your conviction is on this topic, it is between you and God and I am no one to judge. As for me, will I get myself a tattoo? I don’t know, if I am led by the Holy Spirit, then I would. As long as what I do does not dishonor God, defiling His temple, my body, I see no reason for any prohibition. As I pondered on this realization, I was reminded from the scripture of another engraving. Isaiah 49:16 states that the Lord says that He has graven us upon the palm of His hands.
Jimmy Buffet in the album Blue House On The Moon, in his song about tattoos sings that they are permanent reminders of a temporary feeling. In the scriptures, we in fact see that there is a permanent reminder of a permanent feeling and that is the feeling of God toward man, which is one of great Love, a Love so great that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ), in whose palm, those who believe in His Name are engraved a.k.a. marked for life. What a wonderful realization it is to know that believers (you and I), will never be forgotten for we are engraved (some translations say marked which in a sense is tattooed) upon the palm of God hands.
Isaiah 49:16a (KJV)
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands;