Tattoos Are Not a Sin!

When I was younger I would see a lot of fair skinned people with tattoos and I always thought that they looked so cool. The fact that their skin was light enough to make the colors stand out, so well, made me desire a tattoo. As I got older I started to listen to a lot of Heavy metal, and I loved the music so much that I started to dress like the artists that I watched; all black, skinny jeans etc. I even started growing my hair out because I wanted to look like them.

Then the reality of how I look sank in. I realized that my skin was a lot darker than theirs and my hair was not as silky as theirs. So my desire to get a tattoo died. I thought, “If I could not look as cool as them then why do it”. A couple of years later I gave my life to Christ and in an attempt to give up what many people call “devil music”, (Heavy Metal) I came across a band called “For Today”. It was amazing! I found a band that was extremely heavy and said the name of Jesus explicitly in most their music. In their Albums “Portraits” eighty percent of the song titles are biblical names. What was even more interest was that frontman for the band “For Today” was a black man named Mattie Montgomery. For the first time in my life, I saw an artist for the music I loved that looked like me and loved Jesus. What was even cooler is that he had a lot of tattoos. It was at that point when I desired to get a tattoo again.

Then I ended up in an extremely conservative Fundamental Baptist Church. Where everyone was white and essentially believed everything that I enjoyed was of the devil; the fact that I had long dreads, that I used dating sites to meet Christian women, and the fact that I listened to heavy metal, all evil. Over time, I started to believe the things I was doing were wrong, which, led to me to give up the music I loved again. Naturally, this also led to me losing my desire to get a tattoo since the desire re-awakened after getting into Christian Metal.

Then one day I thought, “Let me look at what the bible really has to say about Tattoos.” I was told by a lot of my conservative, brothers and sisters in Christ, that “you shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19: 28 NASB) and then I searched up the passage to see if it’s true and lo and behold it was true that the bible did indeed say this. I was very saddened by this because I thought why does it matter to God if we get tattoos. But then I realized something! According to Galatians 3: 24, 25, those who are in Christ are no longer under the Mosaic Law, which, Leviticus falls under. Not only that, but more hypocritically, we see that verse 27 which is connected to the passage concerning tattoos, in Leviticus, says that those who read this law and choose to adhere to those rules, should also refrain from cutting their hair or their beards. So why is it wrong to get tattoos but it’s okay to get a haircut, conservatives? Just thought I’d add that.

From hypocrisy, we go to dishonesty. We often hear a very popular passage quoted to speak against tattoos and that passage is in; 1st Corinthian’s 6 where Paul charges the Corinthian church to abstain from fornication because our bodies are the “temple of the living God”. Notice that Paul’s words are in direct disapproval of fornication, right? But many conservatives use that passage to address tattoos being sinful. The only other time Paul uses this language “your bodies are the temple of the living God” is 1st Corinthians 3: 16, 17 and based on the context, Paul seems to be addressing doctrine that is contrary to the doctrine of Christ; also known as false doctrine. And the sad fact is we never hear that passage used to address the real issue of sexual immorality or false doctrines. Yet, we have a culture of Christians growing up with the belief that Tattoos are forbidden because of those two passages of scripture used entirely out of context.

My desire to get a tattoo returned after my research, at this point, however, I am trying to find the right things to get tattooed like my wife’s name or a favorite bible verse. Nevertheless, the existence of dishonest Christians became very real to me because of the time I spent researching, whether or not the bible truly prohibits tattoos. All in all, the blessing that is evident for me is that I was able to choose freely when to get a tattoo, due to my desire to know for myself, what God had to say, in his word, concerning tattoos. My hope is that those who have similar encounters with a different generation of Christians will do the same. Search the scriptures, in them, are eternal life and the proper direction for life.

 

~~ The mark of man condemns but the mark of God edifies

Is there any relevance to our story?

In the 21st century, there has been a growth in the population of Christians who value apologetics and pursue the knowledge required to be an apologist. Consequently, that growth has also led to a decline in Christians who tell the story of their deliverance. Before going forward let’s dive into what apologetics is and where it comes from. The Word “Apologetics” comes from the Greek word “apologian” which is found in 1st Peter 3:15 where Peter charges the Christian to be ready to “give a defense.” Many believers today believe that this passage is encouraging the pursuit of knowledge, for the sake of defending the gospel. I am not necessarily saying that this is wrong; more so that this is short-sighted. Giving a defense for the Gospel also means that we are expected to help others see the validity in what we believe, not fight them off. The only way we can get someone to see the validity of our faith is by telling the story of our faith and journey. What modern day apologetics has bred is a debating Christian mentality that involves throwing spiritual punches instead of a calming embrace. When we are discussing our faith with someone and our words tend to point out how “wrong” they are, we are just debating our faith not sharing it. Now debating has its place and it can do very well for certain communities of skeptics but for the focus of the Christian emphasis to evolve into a battle of words, it takes away from a crucial part of the Christian walk, and that is our testimony. A perfect example of this is a favored passage found in John 4 and that is the woman at the well.

The woman at the well did something that is very interesting. During her conversation with Jesus she put up her walls and there are 3 ways she did that. She defended herself with culture, with theology, and with knowledge. Let’s look at each one and examine Jesus’ response. In John 4:12 the woman uses culture to fend Jesus off, she says “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock” (ESV) She immediately tried to draw a dividing line between Jesus and herself by claiming that Jacob was her ancestor and that he specifically gave them, the Samaritans, that well. How we know she is specifically talking about the Samaritans, when she says us, is found in verse 20 “our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people out to worship”. (ESV) Now, Jesus had every right to say “I am from Jacob and this well is just as much my well,” Jesus could have started talking about his direct genealogical ancestry and how he came from the tribe of Judah but he didn’t. Instead of debating with her he stuck to his message of eternal life. The second wall we see the woman at the well put up was that of theology. In verse 20, which I quoted earlier, we see the woman at the well discuss the “right” place to worship. After putting up her wall for the second time Jesus leveled the playing field. He immediately said that a time is coming where people who worship God will not be worshipping God in the mountain they were talking on nor in Jerusalem. Again, Jesus had every right to rebuttal her by saying the temple of God is in Jerusalem and the “holy of holies” is within that temple but he didn’t, instead, he made it clear that there is no “right place” to worship. The third and final wall the woman at the well put up was knowledge and we see that in verse 25 where she says she knows that the Messiah is coming and will explain everything when he arrives. She put her guard up by essentially saying “you’re not telling me anything new” and how does Jesus end this discourse? He reveals who he really is to the woman; he points her to himself.

This is the primary issue I see with Apologetics. If a person is indeed stumped by the information a Christian has, the person who is not a Christian at best looks at that Christian as really smart. That is a problem; because what saves is not our intelligence it is Jesus Christ our Savior. When a person sees Jesus then they have found something amazing, yet apologetics usually creates an academic image for Christians that lead people to think they are smart instead of thinking they must have an amazing Savior. If we see the woman at the well use culture, theology and knowledge to try to fend Jesus off we can expect people to do the same thing to us. Nevertheless, we also see an example of how to deal with this and that example is pointing people directly to Jesus. The question still stands, how do we do that? The way we do that is tell our story, the story of our conversion.

A perfect example of this is a short debate I had with an atheist on the train when I was new to Christianity. We peacefully shared ideas for about 40 minutes and before he got off the train he left me saying, “You know you are a very intelligent young man, you know how to articulate what you believe very well.” Nothing about Jesus sunk in. None of what I said, as smart as it sounded, left a lasting impression about Christ and that is a problem because remembering me will not bring anyone to heaven.

What’s even more amazing about the idea of giving a testimony is the fact that Jesus gives his testimony as well. In John 3: 32, John the Apostle quotes John the Baptist saying, “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.” John is saying that Jesus is telling everyone what he has seen and experienced in Heaven. If Jesus gave his testimony to those people who were not believers then, what should we as Christians be doing? Yes, Jesus hit the Pharisee with facts, that is undeniable but they were a minority when considering the large number of people Jesus spoke to. Even then Jesus still pointed everything back to eternal life through himself after hitting them with the facts. If we want to be relevant, even in this information age, we need to stick to our story, tell people how great Christ has been to us, and point people to Jesus for eternal life.

~~ Don’t get caught up in the facts, let’s be storytellers

Is there something “wrong” with you? Or is the real problem me?

After five years of being a Christian, I’ve come to the realization that Christians who fail to do their jobs are the Christians who tear down believers in Christ who want to do their job. I have been asked by a “seasoned” Christian “do you really read the Bible?” I have also been told by a “seasoned” Christian “if you really believed in the scriptures you would act differently.” My question after five years is, are you, the individuals who chose to accuse, taking the time to show the people, who do not read the bible, what is inside the bible? Are you taking the opportunity to illustrate what living like a Christian means? Or are you unable to do so and thereby accuse others to cover the shame that has developed over the years?

Titus 2:2 says “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” (NASB) It is easy to assume that everyone would know what the words temperate and dignified mean but let’s not assume that and clarify the meaning. To be temperate is to show self-restraint or self-control. To be dignified is to have a serious manner that is worthy of respect. Essentially, the older men, according to the Apostle Paul, are to behave with self-control, respectfully, thoughtfully/cognitively, scripturally which involves a biblical basis for actions, “in love” which involves about half a chapter in the Bible (see 1st Corinthians 13: 1-8) and consistently. Through these behaviors are men, in the faith, to instruct the younger men in the faith. How we know this is Pauls says in Titus 2: 6-8 “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” (NASB) The older men are charged to “urge” the young men showing that it is the responsibility of the older men to encourage the generation below them. The interesting thing is that Paul is encouraging the older men to urge the younger men in something the older men are expected to be doing not something that is foreign to them. We see proof of this in the charge to be “sensible” to both the older men and the younger men. 

So what is the issue here? If there are young Christians in your church who do not understand the Gospel, yet you do, who’s responsibility is it according to the scriptures to clarify the Gospel? Naturally, people get frustrated when they are faced with a task they must complete yet they do not have the knowledge or the tools to do so. So my question is, is it really the reader’s fault for not understanding? Or is it the observer’s fault for not helping when they are expected to? If you are shaking your head at the person who cannot quote John 3:16 you have missed the message in Romans 5:6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (NASB) Christ did not shake his head at humanity for “not getting it” he set an example by “getting it” for us, then showing us how to “get it” (get it = understand)

If you come across a biblically illiterate Christian and never take the time to talk about the Bible with them. You have no right to judge them for their biblical illiteracy, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are doing for God, by looking down at his child.

~~ Christians need to think