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Is it ok for Christians to get tattoos?
Thank you for your interesting question about tattoos. It is a question that is often raised in churches today, and one where Christians may end up in disagreement with one another.
I personally do not have any tattoos, but I know many Christians who do have some. In some cases, they have tattoos from before they were a Christian and may contain names of their family, a military motif or just a creative piece of artwork. Some Christians I know have had tattoos since they know Christ, perhaps with a date of their conversion, a cross or even Hebrew and Greek words that mean something to them.
However, just because something is popular does not mean it is right. So what does the Bible say about tattoos?
It is clear from the Old Testament that tattoos were not allowed: "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:28). Quite often the laws in the Old Testament are there for the specific purpose of showing that the people of God are different to the surrounding cultures. It was commonplace for Canaanite cultures to practice child sacrifice, sexual immorality and make marks on the skin. To show that they are different, God commanded them to do the opposite.
Considering also that disposable needles and clean surgical environments was not practised, it makes sense that God would say no to tattoos to protect the health of his people.
However, from the scriptures we know that God does not care so much about what we look like on the outside, but the heart. "For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart". (1 Samuel 16:7).
Our salvation is not based on the condition or look of our skin, but upon us placing our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. For by grace you have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Just as a person cannot be prevented from becoming a Christian because of their tattoos, in the same way a person cannot lose their salvation because of tattoos.
The bible calls us to examine our own position with God to know whether we have a clear conscience with him. Paul writes that we are to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Paul makes an interesting point when he says that I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean (Romans 14:14).
Therefore, if you would be uncomfortable in getting a tattoo, then don’t get one! If a Christian friend of yours wants to get a tattoo, and they feel no guilt, then let them get one without guilt.
Throughout the world you will find that Christian culture will vary and some rules or expectations may be different or change over time.
For example, in some Christian communities, there is an expectation of no alcohol consumption, whereas in other communities social drinking is permitted. In my own area, Christians once frowned on dancing and going to the cinema, but they are now permitted. Similarly, whereas once tattoos may have been a sign of a troublesome person, tattoos are more accepted generally in culture, and this has permeated through to some Christian communities.
In summary, there were times in the past where God gave a rule for his people not to get tattoos. This was for a specific time and purpose. God looks at our heart, not at our physical appearance, and it is important that we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, having considered what the tattoo means to you and can continue to walk in the Lord with a clear conscience, then there is nothing wrong in you getting a tattoo. We are called to love the Lord with our heart, mind, soul and strength, not to be overly concerned with rules and regulations.
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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