(An expansion of an email of a message sent to my family in general)
My heart has been saddened of late by the fact that I see precious young believers imitating the heathen world in a number of ways. One of these is the acquisition of tattoos to their bodies.
I suppose a case could be made for the notion that, if receiving tattoos is an offense in the eyes of the Lord, it is but a very small one as offenses these days seem to go. After all, the content of such marks, whether one or several, would not necessarily be biblically negative – – might even be of Christian things. So, what could be wrong?
Let me first answer the question I just posed: “What could be wrong with acquiring one or more tattoos?”
Romans 14:23 says ?…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Interestingly enough the very context in which the Apostle Paul penned this sacred Scripture was in the face of questionable practice, the matter of eating food that had been offered to idols. The difference here being, however, that under certain conditions set forth in the passage, eating of such food could be proper. The condition for approval of such eating is given in v. 15 – – that such eating not destroy a brother or sister’s faith. No such exemption is given in Leviticus 19:28 where reception of tattoos is condemned.
So, let’s take a look at this Scripture in Leviticus, the only place in God’s Word where tattoos are mentioned by name.
First, since we are in the Old Testament at this point, there may be those who instantly write it off as something outmoded and unnecessary to observe. After all, the Christian is “not under law but under grace,” right? True, but the only two places this tiny phrase “under grace” is found in holy writ it is given not to excuse certain conduct, but to condemn it – – check it out (Romans 6:14-15).
Newcomers to biblical truth may be apt to say or believe something like: “The Old Testament was for long ago, the New is for now [me].” Then, going forth with that mistaken notion, it is easy to build a set of life practices that preclude obedience to Old Testament teaching.
That is where our modern practice of tattooing comes into the picture. If one reads carefully the context of Leviticus 19:28, a number of things regulated by Scripture here are clearly intended to assist in holy living for that day and time, that culture among the Hebrews, God’s people. These would not necessarily be applicable for our day (for example the number of years to pass in order to eat of the fruit of the young trees the people were to have planted).
On the other hand, moral principles and practices were another matter. Here is where much care needs to be given in order for the believer to please the Lord. Certainly, no Christian man would sell his daughter into prostitution and excuse it because it was forbidden only in the Old Testament [v. 29]. Here morality and consecration to the Lord would have been violated. That holds up under New Testament light.
Verse 26 proscribes eating of blood, a practice of the heathen all round the Israelis. The leaders of the great Jerusalem conference of Acts 15 singled this out as one of the distinguishing factors both Jews and Gentiles were to avoid in order to end the confusion the early church found itself in as Gentiles flooded the church. Properly they reasoned this along with a stand against idolatry and “porneias” [any form of sexual immorality], being matters of morality, would help unite, not divide the church.
I have given a little detail in the last two paragraphs above to sandwich our passage in Leviticus regarding tattoos. It should be clear enough that moral matters discussed and condemned here in Le. 19 must be shunned by the man and woman of faith who live under the great enlightenment of the New Testament. Honorable morality obtains in every age.
So, let me get to my final point. We live in a decadent society, one that has lost all sight of God. The vast majority of our young people never darken the doorway of a Bible-teaching church. “Fun and games” Christianity is popular right now. I call it “cosmetic Christianity.”
We stand, as I write, on the very edge of disregard for decency, our Christ, the authority of our Scriptures, and any real semblance of living the holy life as approved (or even understood) by multitudes all around us. Franklin Graham said it best a number of months ago when he said, “We are losing our world.”
Why then, in God’s dear name, would we want to ask, in effect “What can I get away with as a Christian, and still look pretty much like everybody else around me, and still be okay with the Lord?”
The theme of the Book of Leviticus can be condensed into a single word. It is a word that, under the Law, the Old Testament saints wrestled with and mostly fails to carry out. But it is a word which our precious Lord Jesus exemplified every day in His own life. It is a word that transcends time. And, most of all (for us) it is a word that under the grace of God in the Spirit’s power every believer can partake of – – holiness! It is a word that the believer dare not disregard.
“…ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves in any manner…” (Le. 11:44-45). And then the New Testament rendition: “Follow peace with all men [“panton” – everyone] and holiness without which no man [“oudeis”- person] shall see the Lord” (He. 12:14).
Yep, looks pretty clear to me! Are the scriptures the bottom line for you? I pray so.
Last word and I rest my case: Have a peek at Revelation 13:16. Context: the Great Tribulation. At this point Satan is in charge: you don’t suppose…?
Thanks for reading, and God bless you.