I’ve had a few people comment to me that they don’t agree with my view on tattoos and body piercings. I just want to say this up front; I completely respect other peoples views on this. My view on this topic is admittedly a little liberal. I stand by my views on this topic but respect other’s views as well. Let’s have a good discussion, those are always better than a one sided debate. I’ve copied most of an email I sent to one such person who commented about this. He had found some very good articles articulating his particular view on this topic. We have had a good discussion about this, and have great respect for one another. Below was my response.
It is important to read the Bible in context. Each book/letter/poem…was written to specific people at a specific time (excluding certain prophecies). The book of Leviticus was written by Moses (obviously before they were in the Promised Land). Much of the Levitical laws were there to keep the Jews away from, and separate from, the local pagans. As to the cutting of flesh and tattooing, many pagan tribes practiced these to show devotion to their deities; hence why it is finished with “I am the Lord.” God was setting his foot down and saying ‘don’t follow these idol worshipers; I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one true God.” A good chunk of Levitical law was culture centered; keep God the center of the culture – which is still the best practice.
As far as Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus came to fulfill the law; part of that fulfillment was to show the Jews that their legalistic ways were quite off the mark. In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew16:19b that “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Binding and loosing were common place terms for the Jews. The Law had several places in it that were not exactly black and white, so depending on your particular Rabbi you might have slight variations. A common place that this was/is seen is in the distance that could/can be traveled on a Sabbath day. Jesus taught His disciples not only in words but by example. They all traveled in “excess” and even worked (which was a huge faux pas in that culture) on Sabbath days.
In our culture tattoos aren’t a worship style, they are considered a form of art (hence the comment of mine of “tattoos and piercing are a thing of beauty, a way of decorating ones temple”). God had specific instructions for the Jews on how His temple was to be decorated. He had specific ways that He was to be worshiped. Jesus came and changed all the legalisms in that; He fulfilled the Law so that we can freely worship God. Sadly, many people look to the book of Leviticus to tell people that their tattoos and piercings are against Gods law. The sad part about that is that they don’t look at the tag on their shirt and see that it’s a polyester/cotton blend. “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.” – Leviticus 19:19 (bolded just to show this part of the statement)
I fully respect that some people will differ with me on the tattoo concept. Because of that, I will never tell someone to get a tattoo that isn’t already there and has the same belief I do on the topic, because that may lead them down a path of neglecting their faith. However, I do think that people who disagree with my view on tattoos should also be careful not to tell others that their artwork is against God. That too can push people away from their faith. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:25-31 of this concept (his example is of eating sacrificed meat).
Tattoos or not, let’s remember to love everyone. Christ surrounded Himself with the misfits of his day, and often times those types of people are the most normal.