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Ok as a father of a teenage son you get the questions about what is going on in our world and is it right or wrong from a biblical perspective.

Teenagers have a natural desire to fit in and they seem to want to do what they think “everyone else is doing” just so they fit in. Christian teens are no different in this regard. As MK’s coming back to America the last thing they want is to be too different. That means when we are home on furlough we get the questions about what is happening in the youth culture both good and bad and is it right or wrong. We have to say that one of the big culture shocks for us returning to the states was the increase in number of young people both Christian and non Christian with tattoos and body modifications including multiple piercings, gages in their ears etc, etc. So the first question is it Biblical is their a command against this.

The quick answer is found in Leviticus 19:28 where the God is telling the Israelites to keep his Statues and in verse 28 he says: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” That is pretty straightforward. Of course you will have people say this is the OT and aren’t we under Grace not under the Law. To that you have to wonder what Christ meant when he said’ ” Do NOT think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did NOT come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  We can debate this for a long time but I want to move on and give what I feel is less debatable in this area.

First I want to address the fact that when a teenager says; “everyone is doing it” that usually means someone they know is doing it and they either think it is cool or a good idea. The truth is that not everyone is doing it. A 2006 survey taken by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology states that an estimated 36% of Americans aged 18-29 now have tattoos. That would be a lot of people but not everyone. A Harris Interactive poll conducted in January 2008 concluded that 14% of all adults in the United States have a tattoo, with the highest incidence (25%) found among gays, lesbians and bisexuals. So we can see that really it is not everyone but a lot larger number then when I was a teenager for sure.

First, I would ask any believer to question himself as to why he or she wants a tattoo or a body piercing. What exactly is the purpose of getting it? The plain fact of the matter is that any tattoo or piercing is a self-centered thing. The primary purpose of tattoos is to draw attention to the person, and as a Christian shouldn’t we question whether or not that is what we are trying to do. Are we trying to get others to notice us. Then we need to ask  does this act truly honor the Lord? Or will what I am doing negatively affect my witness?

Secondly, we hear the argument that this OT law was to help Israel move away from pagan culture and some Christians want to argue that tattoos and piercings are no longer connected to pagan customs. I am not sure that I totally agree with this, tattoos are most definitely associated with American sub-culture. The main groups of individuals who sport tattooing on their bodies are those people who are outside the norms of our American society. Who do you think of when you think of tattoos it is the bikers, the gangs,  rock and roll bands and their followers, the gothic culture and other groups that act in rebellion toward the mainstream of society. These are folks who don’t like to be told what to do, what to believe, and go to great lengths to demonstrate opposition toward those in authority who want to hold them accountable to their behavior. If a Christian wants to get a tattoo, he needs to take this into consideration and determine if whether or not he wants to be associated with these various, worldly groups whose world-view promotes rebellious attitudes.

Finally, tattooing and piercing is often done by young and impetuous folks who want to be trendy, and thus they do not think of the consequences of putting a permanent mark on their body. When they “grow up” and desire to become serious about life, a family and a real job, having tattoos and piercing holes all over their bodies tends to be a distraction for them. I personally know many Christians who got a tattoo when they were young unbelievers and now they regret it something terrible. All Christians need to ponder carefully if whether a tattoo or a body piercing is something they are willing to live with the rest of their life, before they get one.

I think that the biggest thing that we need to remember is that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you and we do not want to defile the Temple. I think that we need to be careful that what we do to and with our bodies needs to be carefully considered before we jump in and do something that will harm our testimony and have people look at us rather than to God. The Bible teaches us “not to be conformed to this world” the trends of today will pass but the scars will be permanent.  One of the principles in the New Testament is to die to self, especially the body where sin dwells.  Rom 6:13: “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” One has to decide if tattoos come under this topic.  I will end with this there is no explicit or implicit command against tattooing in the New Testament but there still is the principle that whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We all need to be  fully convinced in what we do. 

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