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Can a Christian have a tattoo?

Mel asked: Can a Christian have a tattoo?

Mel, 

This a good question. The verse that most people think about and wonder about is Leviticus 19:28

[28] You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28 ESV)

That verse seems pretty clear. But if you’re discerning, you know that just one verse earlier was the command not to shave the edges of your beard or round off the hair on your head. People who use the Old Testament law to inform New Testament believers usually pick and choose which portions of the law to use.

The biblical mandate prohibiting tattoos was part of the Old Testament law that Israel was obligated to obey. Jesus not only paid the penalty for our sin but fulfilled every observance, every festival, every Sabbath, every new moon celebration—all of that was completed in Christ. So, the Old Testament prohibition against tattoos, mixed fabrics, pork and many others are all set aside because Christ freed us from observing the law of Moses.

But when it comes to tattoos, I think Christians need to practice wise discernment. The real question is: “Should I?” Not everything that you’re allowed to do is something that you should do. In other words, how does getting a tattoo fit in Romans 14 as something that would be a blessing, something that would glorify Christ, something that would honor Him? 

My personal opinion is that even though having a tattoo is not a sin, I counsel people against it. It gets back to the principle that some things are helpful to believers and some things might be distracting. A good question would be: “What is it about your decision to have a tattoo that's spiritually or biblically based?” Of course, it's up to the individual to evaluate his or her own motives. I've met people who have gotten a tattoo of a Hebrew word or a portion of a verse. I think they are sincerely trying to glorify the Lord. But in my opinion, the better part of discernment is to avoid tattoos.

Thanks for your question,

Stephen

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