Reporter Douglas Todd of The Vancouver Sun visited the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Langley, British Columbia, and found that tattoos are the newest “in thing” for Vineyard Christians. Amy Bonde, who is a staff member at the Vineyard in Langley, has a large Celtic cross tattooed on the small of her back. Encircling the cross are Hebrew letters that allegedly mean, “I am my beloved’s, and he is mine.” Bonde says the tattoo signifies that she looks upon Jesus Christ as her “lover.”
The Vancouver Sun report notes that the TATTOOING REPRESENTS “A SIGN OF A SEISMIC SHIFT IN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY, which has been associated for most of this century with harsh rules about controlling one’s body: no long hair on men, no pants on women, no drinking, no dancing, no jewelry and certainly no tattooing.”
The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota) ran an article in November 1998 about the Christian Tattoo Association operated by Randy Mastre and two other members of New Song Community Church in Bismarck. Their goal is “to bring Christianity to tattooers.”
What is wrong with “Christian” tattooing?
First of all, the Old Testament plainly forbade tattooing.
“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:28).
“They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh” (Lev. 21:5).
This is such a clear command, that one would need a compelling reason to disregard it, even though it is an Old Testament law.
In some cases we are told in the New Testament that something in the Old is not for us. That is true for the Old Testament dietary laws (Rom. 14:2-3; 1 Tim. 4:1-5) and for the sabbath (Col. 2:16), but there is no such statement in regard to tattooing.
For a Christian to get a tattoo would be to say that he or she can be certain that what God was concerned about in Leviticus 19:28 and 21:5 He no longer cares about, and I don’t see what basis of interpretation allows that.
Second, God’s people are not to be identified with evil.
God forbade the Israelites to cut their flesh because it was an identification with paganism and idolatry, and the New Testament contains the same principles and restrictions.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world…” (Romans 12:1-2).
“But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:20-22).
“‘Tattoo’ originated from ‘tatau’ or ‘tatu,’ which were body markings originally associated with natives, aborigines, cannibals and headhunters of Southeast Asian islands, such as: Polynesia, Micronesia, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand, New Guinea, Malagasy, and the Marquesas Islands. ‘Tattoo’ was first mentioned by naturalist Joseph Banks, who accompanied Captain James Cook on the ship HMS Endeavour as he explored the Pacific, 1768-1771: ‘I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humour or disposition.’ Sailors brought tattoos to port cities around the world, where, for a century, they were associated with salty sailors, rough working men, slaves, convicts, and circus sideshows” (Bill Federer, “Herman Melville’s Classic Novel Moby Dick,” American Minute).
Tattooing is still intimately associated with idolatry, paganism, moral debauchery, and rebellion.
An article by Clay Thompson in the Pacific News Service for July 27, 1996, was titled “Pagan Fashion’s New Frontier - Facial Tattoos.” Note that the author, who in this article makes no claim to be a Christian, associates tattoos with paganism. He connects it with a “new reverence for pagan beliefs.”
A prominent book on tattooing is Pagan Fleshworks. It is by Maureen Mercury and contains photos by Steve Haworth, identified as “the foremost body modification artist in the United States.” “Body modification” is the practice of burning, inking, cutting, piercing, and otherwise desecrating one’s God-given body.
A July 2003 survey of more than 2,000 people in the United States, reported in the AFP for Oct. 11, found that among women who get tattoos, 34% “feel sexier,” and 29% overall “FEEL MORE REBELLIOUS.” One woman interviewed by the Vancouver Sun admitted that she got a tattoo “PARTLY OUT OF REBELLION against the normal Christian stereotype of ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’” She admits that her mother did not want her to get a tattoo and did not like it (“For the Love of God,” The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia, Feb. 1999). Another Vineyard member, Peter Davyduck, who has a tattoo of the word “SIN” on his ankle, says this is a message to “judgmental Christians that everyone is a sinner and should be accepted in spite of it.” Note the rebellious attitude in this statement. Every born-again Bible-believing Christian knows that everyone is a sinner, but this does not mean that it does not matter how professing Christians should live.
Such rebellion is forbidden in God’s Word. 1 Peter 4:5 says, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” And Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
A young woman who got tattoos before she was saved told me that tattooing is addictive. Wherein is the addiction?
A third reason against tattoos is that the Bible warns the Christian not to cause moral offence and spiritual stumbling.
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32).
“Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Cor. 6:3).
“Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor. 8:10).
This was one of the apostle Paul’s guiding principles. He did not want his actions to cause someone to be offended and to stumble spiritually. For this purpose, he was willing even to forego lawful things such as eating meat. How much more should Christians in this age forego highly questionable things such as tattooing and pants on women and “Christian” rock for the sake of being a blessing and encouragement to their conservative brethren! But, sadly, the Christian rock-tattooing culture comes decked out with the rock & roll attitude of “no one is going to take away my fun; I’m not going to let some old fogy tell me what to do.”
This is an unscriptural attitude, to say the least. What if a professing Christian follows the example of the “Christian tattoo crowd” and gets involved in the tattoo culture and is drawn into sin?
Not only is the Christian to avoid things that are obviously evil, but he is to avoid things that would cause offense to others even if those things are in not necessarily wrong in themselves:
“It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:21).
The Christian is to live his life to please others instead of himself. Contemporary-style Christians, though, do not care if they offend others with their rock music and worldly appearance. They protest that they have liberty to do as they please. This is carnal rebellion, and it is the attitude that lies at the heart of apostasy. Those who desire to throw off restrictions on their lifestyles are not following the Bible but their own self-willed lusts. They are fulfilling 2 Timothy 4:3-4:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but AFTER THEIR OWN LUSTS shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
A final reason against tattooing is that the believer’s body is not his own; it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
For the born-again Christian, tattooing is graffiti on someone’s else’s temple.
The following is a testimony of Pastor Charlie Haddad who got tattoos before he was saved:
“I was a professing Christian for 24 Years (Catholic) and growing up I was hanging out with some Muslim friends. Some of them got tattoos of a sword and the moon. I then thought I wanted to get a cross and the face of Jesus, and I did, one on each shoulder. Looking back I got them out of pride, it was more of religious pride. I was a Christian only by name, thinking these tattoos would identify me as a Christian, far from it, I didn't know the Lord. Had I really known the Lord and wanted to walk in His ways and the way of His Word I would have obeyed Him and written His Word upon my heart and not on my body. I would have memorised and mediated on His Word instead of having a form of godliness (Proverbs 3:3; 7:2-2). I regret getting these tattoos, and I am ashamed. I know it is not pleasing to the Lord.”
Doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus has a tattoo on His thigh in Revelation 19:16? “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
In Revelation 1, Christ is clothed with a garment down to the foot. No one can see His thigh.
[This article is enlarged from Dressing from the Lord, which is available from Way of Life Literature, www.wayoflife.org.]
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