Can Christians get tattoos? Many believers wonder if it is a sin to get permanent ink on their bodies. While discussing the Bible, my friend came up with a question that made my curiosity get the best of me. Can Christians get tattoos? Why, or why not? Tattoos have been a controversial topic because of a Bible verse written in the book of Leviticus:
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.Leviticus 19:28
After reading this passage and doing an endless amount of research, I finally got an answer.
Can Christians get tattoos? Yes, Christians can get tattoos. In Leviticus 19, the Lord is clearly telling His people several different rules to make them look different from the surrounding nations, because the Israelites are to be a holy and set apart nation. In context, these laws do not apply to modern Christian. However, there are very important lessons created from these rules that we can take from today.
Why Were the Israelites Not Allowed to Get Tattoos?
It is important to ask ourselves “Why did God tell the Jewish people not to get tattoos in the first place”? The background information before we answer this question is discussed in the book of Leviticus. After being released from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were traveling to the Promised Land. They were being led by Moses, a prophet, for forty years.
If you look at the context in Leviticus, God is clearly telling His people several rules and regulations to make them look different from other people. He was bringing the Jews into the Promise Land to occupy this particular nation, but all around they had several other countries that served other gods.
One of the actions that the other people groups did to worship their Gods were to tattoo their bodies for the pagan gods. So, when God was giving the rules of no tattoos, He wanted to let the Israelites know that He wanted them to worship Him differently than how the other people groups were worshipping their Gods. He wanted His people to live differently and stand out from the other countries.
During this time, God gave the Jews many rules to follow. There were actually more than 600 rules and regulations created to be followed. When the Lord’s people started studying these rules, they discovered that each rule was made for different reasons.
God’s Three Different Types of Laws:
1. Moral Laws
These rules and regulations were created for the Israelite’s morals. Whether this is knowing if there is something good and evil or right and wrong. These are the types of morals that apply to all of humanity. Some examples of the importance of following these rules are that the Lord says to not murder because murdering someone is wrong.
2. Government Laws
There were certain laws on how the nation of Israel governs its providence. The government structure is how they value their constitution. These rules were assigned to Israel by the Lord. These laws do not affect us because we live in a different nation. For example, if you are American, the constitution applies to America, because they are from the United States.
The constitution of Israel does not apply to anyone else but Israel because we live in a different country and in a different era. So, all throughout the Old Testament, there were principles placed strategically for the people of Israel in that timeframe. However, there are still lessons for anyone reading the Bible to learn from those rules.
3. Ceremonial Laws
These rules were created to help guide the Israelites into worship. They created requirements to help connect with God. These rules actually overlap with the government structure laws, because one set was created to teach Israel how to run as a nation, and the other was to show the Jews how to function as a body of believers. To create a group of worshippers.
Even though these principles do not affect people in the twenty-first century, because they are not in the same time era, there are still important rules that no doubt still apply to us.
It’s very important to not say that the Old Testament does not apply to this day’s age. No, Christians today are not obligated to follow those laws. However, it is important to examine them so that followers of Christ can learn lessons from them.
What Made the Israelites Different?
In this timeframe, if you didn’t get a tattoo, you seemed very different. It is likely the people in the surrounding nations, who knew the Israelites, would start questioning why they do not have any tattoos. There’s a potential chance that other people would notice, get curious, and then ask about the Israelites’ God. This led the other people groups to then have discussions with the Jews about their God of Israel.
Christians standing out gave the Israelites the opportunity to teach the truth. This is the main point that God wanted to make when He made a rule for the Jews to not get tattoos in the first place.
The Lord was not anti-tattoo, He simply wanted to make His people look different. God didn’t only just use this tactic with tattoos, He also did this with food, clothing, different ceremonies, etc. He did this with all different sorts of things throughout the Old Testament, through the course of several centuries. God uses His people to be different from the other nations that are all around them.
How Does This Apply to Christians Today?
How can you be different? How can you live your life so different today that you stand out from the people who are around, in such a way that others will notice the Lord? Find out a way how to stand out without being offensive, abrasive, or judgmental. You want to stand out in such a way that makes others wonder about your Savior.
Being positive and caring may even cause them to be introduced to the Lord. You can expose the Lord by the way you act and respond to different situations. This can occur in your relationships, a community group, or even on some sort of sports team.
How can you live in a way that will make you different and show how to honor God? Others can witness your differences in so many different places. Whether you are at work, in a store, eating at a restaurant, or even sitting in a classroom.
This is the entire reason why God did not allow the Israelites to get tattoos in the first place. It has nothing to do with the ink that was under their skin, but more to do with the attitude in their hearts and minds. With the Israelites following God’s rules and regulations, they lead nonbelievers into living their lives in the Lord’s love and truth.
Why is the Old Testament Important Now?
Being fearless, being different, and obeying Him is what God wanted from His people back then, and this is what He wants from His people today. The Lord wants His people to be different in such a way that other people will be pointed to Him.
The commands in the Old Testament are not specifically about the actual rules themselves, they’re about a grander lesson. When we get our eyes off the grander lesson, we end up missing the point that God has for us. So yes, it is okay for a Christian to get a tattoo. In my opinion, there is no biblical context that says we cannot get tattoos. However, we need to remember the lesson of why God told the Israelites to not get tattoos in the first place.