What Does God Think About Tattoos?

Interesting question. We have to deal with this question on two levels: what does the Bible say about tattoos, and how does this translate into our culture today? The only passage in Scripture that deals directly with marking the body is Lev 19:28. The literalist reading of Lev 19:28 (the only verse in Scripture that has ever been addressed anything translated to “tattoo”) would likely lead most readers to say that God is anti-tatty. The idea driving it, however, speaks to some other practices that carry over to our culture today. First, the context of 19:26-28, which is found within the larger Holiness Codes of Leviticus, deals with how the body is to be used (or not used) in relationship to occult practices, with the goal being to be set apart among the nations as YHWH’s people: 
 

Verse 26– don’t eat meat with the blood still in it (a sacrificial practice of neighboring cultures who would soak the meat in blood before sacrificing to other deities), and don’t interpret omens or tell fortunes (again, a huge practice in neighboring cultures). 

Verse 27– Do not round off your hair or mar the edges of your beard (hair and beard cuts often showed religious or political office or affiliation).

Verse 28– Do not cut your body for the dead or mark yourself. Again, the context here is highly occultic. Cutting and marking the body (here, it is ambiguous as to whether this means tattooing or painting or staining the body. This is the only use of this word in the OT) were regular practices specifically in the Baal cults, and were often done to remember, mourn, or even ward off or commune with the dead. 

In this context then, the aim of these charges is two-fold: be God’s holy people through what you do with your body, and do not participate in the occultic patterns we see in neighboring cultures. 

Yet one could argue that tattoos today have little to do with occultic practices, and that depending on what you have tattooed, they could actually set you apart as one of God’s holy people. So what now? What do I do with my unicorn-jumping-a-rainbow lower back tat? Or my cool in-Hebrew-Scripture-armband tattoo? (neither do I have personally- I am speaking for the reader…ah, you probably got that). Is it really a sin if it has nothing to do with occultic materials? Leviticus also says not to eat shrimp and for women who are experiencing their time of the month to stay outside the camp for days until they are pure again. How do we handle Leviticus (and other OT regulations) as New Testament people?

I’m so glad you asked. 

In the NT, there are three great indicators that help us discern what to do with OT law in today’s time:

First, we must ask what did Jesus say about it? If you read through the gospels, you’ll see Jesus does one of three things with OT Law: He reiterates it (e.g. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as your self), He intensifies it (Matt 5- adultery is more than physical; it is about what we intend in our hearts), or He reinterprets it (e.g. the Sabbath). If Jesus talks about it, we’re going to go with Jesus’ take on it. 

Second, what did the early church in Scripture do with it? First, they followed Jesus’ lead. Second, they saw the law through the reconciling work of Jesus. For instance, they recognized the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish people, and some of the covenantal and Levitical laws were reinterpreted through that lens (e.g. circumcision not required for Gentiles in Gal 2 or issues of animals being clean and unclean in Acts 10). 

In some cases, like tattoos, we’ll find that Jesus didn’t really say anything about them, and that the early church didn’t either. What then? 

Third, we must take the whole counsel of Scripture into account. Remember, our actions  stem from our heart, our situations, and our choices, and Scripture has a lot to say about all those things. With tattoos, I’d ask these questions of myself:

  1. What does the witness of the Holy Spirit tell you about this choice? (John 14:26)
  2. What does it mean to honor God with my body? Or that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? (Col 3:17, 1 Cor 6:19-20)
  3. This tattoo may be permissible Scripturally. Is it beneficial? To my heart? To my witness? To my relationships? To my ministry?  (1 Cor 6:12)
  4. What is driving my desire to have a tattoo? Is there any rebellion, anger, or any other negative emotion that fuels this desire? If so, how do I deal with this biblically?
  5. Does getting a tattoo dishonor or cause issues between myself and anyone in my life? Especially your parents and/or spouse/future spouse?
  6. Am I passing judgement on someone else based on how I use my freedom in Christ? Either by choosing or not choosing to get a tattoo?
  7. Is my decision based on faith? Will it lead to the glory of God? 

With that, may God give you wisdom in your choice. And remember, if you have a tattoo already, not to let this discussion drag you down or cause you guilt or shame. This is a non-essential issue to the faith, and we should strive to be gracious to everyone on this, no matter where your convictions lie. 

 

(Answer Provided By Drew Causey)

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Can You Be Forgiven For Suicide?

First, this is a serious question, and could be coming from someone who is wrestling with the question of suicide. If so, I want to be abundantly clear: God’s will for your life does not include suicide. It is the opposite of why Christ came. In John 10, Jesus teaches us that our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but that Christ came that we might have life, and that in abundance. If there are things that you are wrestling with that cause you to think that maybe suicide is the answer, please get in contact with me and let’s sit down and talk about things. As someone who has wrestled with depression and even suicidal thoughts in my life, I can testify that it is not the answer, and that Christ is able to lead us through even the darkest seasons and into the light. 

Second, if you have a family member or loved one who has these questions, please don’t hesitate to connect them to me or someone who can help them deal with their emotions and questions. 

I have had friends commit suicide. It is a hard thing to handle, and it raises a lot of questions about God, death and judgment. In every suicide situation I’ve ever been around, this question pops up, and with good reason. Most of us have heard people say or imply that a person who commits suicide is going to hell. Interestingly, that doesn’t come from Scripture itself, but from one particular school of thought in church history. Yet even in church history, there are a wide range of thoughts on suicide that have been popular at different times or in different cultures. One rule that I try to follow in theological matters is to start with Scripture itself and work my way towards today’s culture and questions. Here, I hope to model that for you. 

There are not a lot of suicide-specific passages of Scripture in the Bible. There are six suicides in the Bible (Saul, Samson and Judas being the most noted accounts), and none of these people are said to have been eternally condemned or pardoned based on their suicide. We know that suicide is self-murder, and murder is clearly a sin. However, murder is not an unforgivable sin, and there is little if no real basis for thinking of suicide as some form of unforgivable sin. According to Matthew 12:31, the only unforgivable sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is not suicide, but an out-right rejection of the grace and leading of God. Some people claim it as damnable because a person could not repent of it before they died, but it is likely that every person who has ever died has had sins that were not confessed, maybe even not even realized, so unconfessed sin or a lack of repentance cannot be the grounds for which we see suicide as a one-way ticket to hell.

The more we read Scripture, the more we will see that a person’s eternity is wrapped into their decision or lack of decision to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvatiom. This is something that 1. we cannot truly judge for anyone else, and 2. cannot be affirmed or denied by their choice to end their life. The eternal destination of a person who commits suicide has to do with their life decisions and faith in Christ- and that must be looked at with care and much humility. The best guesses we can make, based on testimony, fruit, etc… are just that, and we have to conclude that the act of committing suicide is no way to determine the eternal status of someone. It is an atrocity, a sin that need not ever be chosen, but like all sin, can find forgiveness in the cross of Christ. 

The major point of this, then, should not be to justify future sin, especially the sin of suicide. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is able to forgive sin, but not only that- he breaks the power of sin over us. We no longer have to choose sin, but instead can choose Christ’s best through the power of the Holy Spirit. Suicide, just like any other sin, is not only the wrong moral choice- it should no longer make sense. Sin is something we have been set free from- and Christ in us is able to lead us out of every link and tie we have to sin. Sin should no longer make sense to those of us who have been forgiven and set free from sin. 

If you or someone else is looking at suicide as an option, please reach out and find help. You are not alone, and Christ can lead you through this temptation and into abundant life.

 

(Answer Provided By Drew Causey)

How Do We Know Jesus Was Raised From The Dead?

Good question. 

From an archeological standpoint, all of the claims of Scripture stand up firmly. From Jerusalem to the rulers who were in power, even down to the practice of crucifixion and burial described in Scripture, everything lines up with what historians and archeologists have found about the claims of the culture and historical setting of Jesus’ life. There are even references to Jesus and the claims of resurrection in non-Christian texts from that day. 

One reason we know about Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is due to the consistant witness of those who saw him. In 1 Cor 15:3-8, Paul recounts what he told the church in Corinth about Jesus Christ. In doing so, he says that Christ died and was raised, that he appeared to Peter, to the 12 disciples, to over 500 people at the same time, to the Apostles and James, and lastly to Paul himself. The number of witnesses to the resurrection is profoundly large, and given the political and religious climate around the founding and early life of the church, it is quite odd that there is no record of any of these witnesses denying or changing their testimony about what they saw. Many of these early witnesses were killed for their faith, yet none of them revealed or confessed that they were lying about Jesus’ resurrection. It is odd that even persecution and death left these witnesses unwaivering in their confession about Christ. For that many witnesses to collectively stick to their guns about the resurrection, they would either have to all be lying, all had the same hallucination at the same moment (500 at the same time? really?) or it must be true.

Another reason we can attest to the truth of the resurrection is because the enemies of the church could have done one thing to thwart the movement of the early church and yet could not: they simply could have produced the body of Jesus. If Jesus’ body was found, the entire movement of Christianity would have ceased. Even the testimony of the guards who were at the tomb could have stopped its momentum. Yet none of these voices can be heard. 

There are plenty of books written about this subject: William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith and The Son Rises, J.P. Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City, and Gary Habermas’ The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus and Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, a debate with then-atheist Anthony Flew. Check them out for more information on this question. 

 

(Answer Provided by Drew Causey)