There are many things which distinguish those who are millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) from other generations including: a concern for social media whether talking on their cell phones, checking their Facebook pages or posting a comment on their Twitter accounts, this generation is skilled at multi-tasking, and very computer savvy. In addition, nearly all have at least one tattoo (or “tat”). Tattoos have become a defining difference between the generations with those under 40 having at least one and those over 40 seldom having one. Many millennials have tattoos over large sections of their bodies. Their tattoos may be as simple and elegant as a small butterfly or as dark and demonic as an image of the devil. Some have their arms covered in tattoos (called “sleeves”). One millennial friend of mine has a tattoo of an Old Testament passage in Hebrew on her back!
How should Christians respond to tattoos? The Bible contains a prohibition against tattoos. God tells the people of Israel, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). The heathen nations among whom Israel lived both cut themselves for the dead and tattooed their bodies. God’s people must be different. They were not to be like them. What about Christians? We do not live under the Levitical law for in Christ we have fulfilled it. However the Old Testament required obedience to three types of law: a) ceremonial, b) dietary, and c) moral. Christians are no longer bound by the ceremonial law which was a shadow of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It was fulfilled in Him and satisfied by His death on the cross.
Christians are also no longer bound by the dietary law. As the Apostle Peter learned, when it came to food, “what God has made clean, do not call unclean” (Acts 10:15). Further the Apostle Paul says concerning food, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1Timothy 4:4, 5).
Christians, however, are bound by the moral law of the Old Testament. Christ Jesus never released us from obeying the moral law of God. For example, we are to keep the 10 commandments as enumerated in Exodus 20 because they are moral commandments.
What does all this have to do with tattoos? Tattoos were prohibited under the moral law of God to distinguish God’s people from the pagan people among whom they dwelt. I believe that is still the case. Tattoos are still prohibited for Christians. We need to “go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christians are to be a separated, unique people who are not like the unsaved among whom they dwell. One way to be separate is to refuse to be tattooed. Your body is not your own to do with as you please. You've been bought by God at the price of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
If you already have a tattoo, it is difficult to become un-tattooed. If that is your case, don’t live in guilt or shame. Simply find other ways to separate yourself from the unsaved world.
Having said that, there is one tattoo that every believer will receive . . . and will want! The Bible says that God will “write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem . . .” (Revelation 3:12). Beloved, all who belong to Christ will be tattooed with His special name to signify His ownership of them and His special city, the destiny of all who love Him.
Looking forward to getting my tat in heaven,