A topic that many people have many different opinions on. There are more conservative views, and also very liberal ones too. A lot of Christians have tattoos, while others are convicted against getting any.
In my opinion, neither is right or wrong.
The ones who are hardcore anti-tattoos may beg to differ, but lets take a look at Scripture, shall we?
The most popular verse that conservatives bring up when talking about how tattoos are "wrong" and "ungodly" is Leviticus 19:28, which says:
"You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD."
At first glance, it seems to indicate that God is telling His chosen people to not tattoo themselves. And this is true. But, like any passage of Scripture, we need to read this verse in the entirety of its context. Not only the verses before and after, but also the time period in which this was written.
"(26) You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divinations or soothsaying. (27) You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. (28) You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. (29) Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall into harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. (30) You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. (31) Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
- Leviticus 19:26-31
I think it's pretty clear that God is talking to His covenant people of Israel in this passage, and that His commands were specifically for that era and those individuals. He is commanding them to stay away from specific practices of any of the nearby religious groups - such as, eating bloody meat, practicing witchcraft, cutting hair and beards, prostitution, and cutting one's own skin in memory of dead relatives. This was a very common practice in pagan cultures as a physical, outward show of mourning. It's very important to note that it's specifically talking about cutting and tattoos for that specific reason. It no way implies that it's for body decoration or art.
Let us also look at the original language that this passage was written in.
The word for "tattoo" that is used in Leviticus 19:28 is the Hebrew word "qa aqa" and is the only place in the whole Bible that it appears. This Hebrew word means to literally "cut", but taken in the context, indicates a mark imprinted onto skin - and I feel that we can safely assume that it's still in reference to marking bodies in mourning for the dead.
Another simple reason why I believe Christians are free to tattoo their bodies is simply that we are living under the new covenant. Therefore the old Law is done away with and we are no longer subjected to the rules that the Israelites were under. If we still were, then why aren't we sacrificing animals to redeem ourselves, and why are we eating pork, and not wearing clothes made from two different fabrics?
Today, the tattoo is a decorative art form for self-expression. (Personally, I don't think anyone should get a tattoo unless it has a personal meaning to them because, let's face it, would you really want something permanently inked into your skin unless it wasn't something that was significant to you? I think not.) Just how people use makeup, piercings, different hair styles, body-building, etc. as forms of modifying their appearance, so tattoos are used to change and decorate someone's body and look. And you know that phrase "Outward appearance reveals the inward heart?" Well, whatever you choose to get tattooed on the outside of your body is a representation of your inward self.
I'm not saying that, since tattoos are not sinful then every Christian should go out and get them! It's definitely something you need to consider and prayerfully seek God's direction in whether or not to get tattooed. He convicts every individual differently. I, personally, currently have 10 tattoos (and plan to get more). If He has convicted you otherwise, then don't get any.
Tattoos are a life-changing and permanent choice.
Some questions you could ask yourself if you are considering getting some are:
- Am I legally old enough to get a tattoo?
- If I live with my parents, would they support my decision or would it be disrespectful to their house if I chose to get one?
- Would I be defying their God-given authority at my current age?
- Would I still want this tattoo on my body even when I'm fifty years old?
- Is this tattoo something my future spouse would like to see on me forever?
- Is this tattoo easy to hide in case of any future career opportunities that don't allow tattooed employees?
- Would this tattoo bring glory to God in its phrasing, image, placement, etc.?
- Do I feel fully convinced that Christians are permitted to get tattoos?