Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tattoos on the Temple of God

So the question of my wife getting tattooed has came up recently in our house which has lead us to some interesting questions.

Lev. 19:28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (NIV)
Pretty straightforward, no? The trouble is, and one I have wrote about before, is context.  It is so easy for us to take verses of the Bible to beat people over the head with because they are doing something that for some reason doesn't fit with what we feel is proper.  The quote from Leviticus, in context, has more to do with protecting early Hebrews from pagan worship than it does from the temptation of getting a tattoo.  The risk, then, is a matter of legalism.  It is very easy for us to get caught up in Law because it is, well, easy.  We don't have to think or to take chances.  There is a right and a wrong, good and evil, Law and Lawlessness.  But for anyone who has any life experience at all, we know that things aren't that easy, even if we wish they were.  Looking forward to Christ, his teaching was hard to bear, but simple and elegant.  Legalism does more harm than good ans he stripped away tradition and codification and left us with some really simple commands.

Luke 10 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
For some reason this isn't good enough for us, though.  I think our masochistic nature doesn't want it to be this easy.  Trust me, it isn't.  Trying to make the right decisions and walk in the steps of Christ without an absolute, black-and-white law is hard.  You have to try and approach every situation with God in mind.  What does His love mean in this situation?  How should I apply myself to be the light that shines in the darkness.  Attacking people for art on their skin isn't going to bring them to God.  It will alienate them, and as I have asked before, who does that serve?

Now what does this all say about Tattoos?  It says that each person much take each situation and analyze it. You have to ask yourself questions.  Speak to your elders about it.  Get as much information as you can before you decide and if you do go through with it then get something that will do God's creation justice.  I don't follow the line of thinking that a tattoo will mar God's temple if it is done right.  No one in their right mind would consider Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel as a defilement to a house of God, so why does the thought of beautiful art on the body defile it for God?  Again I think it is an artifact of Puritanism that just doesn't serve anyone today and ultimately can push the very people who need to be saved farther away from God.

If you would like to read a little further into the subject, why not start over at Religious Tattoos.  It is a Catholic site, but I think he does nicely quoting from Scripture and showing there is more to the argument than a simple yes or no.  He doesn't claim any authority, other than as a guy "who loves Christ and Tattoos", but then, neither do I.  When in doubt, error on the side of Grace!

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