Tattoos. Biblically, are they right or wrong?

This post was pleading to be written. A couple days ago one of my Christian friends got a tattoo with a couple of his friends, and now today another Christian friend posted on Facebook about his tattoo and how be believes it to be biblically right. I have thought about the morality of having tattoos before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever come to a concrete opinion about it. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

Tattoos (as well as their carrier solution and permanent makeup) are toxic for the body since they contain chemicals and heavy metals, and I know they sometimes cause infection or transmit disease. So just like eating healthily, exercising, keeping your skin protected from getting sunburned, and (for women) wearing natural beauty products, we are taking better care of our bodies for Christ if we don’t inject poisonous ink into our skin. Many dye colors are used as printers’ ink and car paint. The FDA doesn’t regulate tattoo ink making, and so also doesn’t require disclosure of ingredients going into the inks. Because of this any kind of chemical (including mutagenic, teratogenic, and carcinogenic chemicals) can be put in there and the person getting the ink injected into them won’t even know what’s being put into their body.

The old testament states in Leviticus 19:28 that tattoos are wrong: “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” But what was the context? Was God telling the children of Israel to set themselves apart from the pagans who marked their bodies with tattoos? If so, the people who don’t know God in our culture don’t all have tattoos, so to not have one is not to set yourself apart from them.Even if in the old testament times God didn’t want to see a tattoo on any of his children, regardless of how others looked, Acts 15:28-29 says concerning the old testament laws: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” Also, Romans 10:4 says “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

With that being said about the old law vs. the new law let’s think about 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Is choosing to do anything you know is unhealthy, a sin, or is saying so being legalistic? Does it matter if you do it just once in a while when you have no better option at the time, or if you make unhealthy choices as a way of life? Are Christian symbols permanently marked on skin glorying to God and other symbols are not?

If purposely doing something which we know is harmful to our body is a sin, I understand no one can or will make completely healthy choices about everything all the time, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” –Romans 6:15-18

Do you believe God approves of the use of tattoos the way they are made and administered today? If so, what makes you think so?


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