Let’s Talk Tattoos

First, I’ll confess, I’m not a fan of tattoos, but hang on before you click off, I will support said tattoos by the end of this blog post. And, for the bonus, I’ll explain why Leviticus 19:28 doesn’t apply.

First, why I’m not a fan.

Simple. I love the human body as is.  At 19, I really enjoyed my body. Not in an arrogant way. I was still pretty naive, and did not think of myself as sexy or beautiful. I was just me. I just enjoyed my toes, my feet, my legs, my arms. I thought my body was pretty. I thought most people’s bodies were. Even my old aunts with wiggly arms.

I was at an advantage. In the 60s and 70s, celebrities were present but not prevalent  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (whoever their equivalent was) did not dominate my life. Yes, I swooned over actors at movies, though I can’t remember who now. But, I didn’t take them home with me. They stayed at the theaters. Magazines were fun to look at, but again, they weren’t telling me to get thinner or have my teeth capped. They were telling me how to lighten my hair with lemon juice, something I did regularly.

So, for me. The human body is a work of art. When someone tattoos it, it is like vandalizing to my mind. You just threw paint on something beautiful and frankly, I’ve never seen a tattoo I thought was prettier than the body it adorned. I’ve never seen a tattoo artist make a body prettier with their work. That body, to my thinking, is art. Perfect, beautiful art. To add to it, just messes it up.

So, there, my opinion. Do what you like with it.

But, in this ever-increasing battle of the Christian vs. the non, the subject of tattoos comes up regularly. My son has two (and no, I don’t like either one, but it is his body), and I’m often asked, “I thought he was a Christian?” by believers and non, who assume Christians cannot tattoo themselves. This belief is based on Leviticus 19:28 where it says,

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

I’m not getting into the discussion of the cuts on your body. I’m just hoping you’re not doing that. But, for the tattoo part, what do I say to my Christian son about that verse? I say God gave that law to the Israelites as they began to make their journey into the land he promised them, Canaan. He gave them their civil laws and their ceremonial laws. He also gave them the 10 commandments which sum up all laws.

These laws are found in the Books of the Law, or the first five books of Scripture. They are called the books of the law because they contain the laws and instruction given by the Lord through Moses to the people of Israel.

Many generations before, God had promised Abraham that he would build a nation through him. Several million people later, and forty years of wandering around in the wilderness, and a lot of discussion going on about what their now-to-be-country would look like, they were ready to enter and take over the land from the Canaanites (if that frustrates you, that is another topic, sorry).

So, God gave them their civil laws and their ceremonial laws. Basically, how they would worship and live. Tattoos were out. Here’s why. They were to stand out. They were to be different from the nations around them. God wanted the pagans to know, there goes an Israelite. A man or a woman who belongs to God. Israel actually started their government with no human king on the throne. God was their king. Everything about their country was different, which made each individual different, which made them stand out like a sore thumb, which made people look at and wonder about them.

They weren’t to fit in or blend. They were to STAND OUT. And, In that culture, not being tattooed or cutting yourself would make you stand out because the Canaanites were heavily tattooed. The Canaanites worshiped their god Baal by burning their babies in fires, and a lot of other not-so-great-things one would hope not to mimic.

Hence, the second reason for not having tattoos.  When one steps a foot into the fire (no pun intended), it is a slippery slope. God wanted his people to stay away from such practices (in the end they did not). And, as I have often asked my children, if someone is sitting in a chair and you’re on the floor in front of them, which is easier? To pull them down, or for them to pull you up? Downward is always easier.

God wanted his people to look upward toward him.

There is so much more to this subject than I’m writing here, but suffice it to say, that law in Leviticus was part of the civil law for the Israelites. It doesn’t apply to us as Christians, primarily because we aren’t living in Israel and even more primarily because Jesus Christ fulfilled the law–all of it–even the 10 commandments. He did not break one law in thought, word or deed. So, we are no longer under the law, though we are compelled by it. Compelled but not judged, because Jesus took our penalty for the laws we break daily.

So, if tattoos are your thing, Christian or not, then go for it. It isn’t Scriptural to say you cannot.

Still, the spirit of law touches my heart. How do I as a Christian stand out as different from the world around me? Do others look at me and say, she is a Christian? She belongs to God? Or do I blend?

At this point, I’m not interested in tattoos for myself, but there are plenty of other ways I likely blend without realizing it. And compromise my beliefs. And, deny Christ so I don’t make waves, or be rejected. Its all something to think about, I suppose.

But, I do hope at 54, I can love my wiggly arms as much as I loved my aunt’s.