Should I get a tattoo??

Greg Robeson's picture

Has anyone ever asked you this question? It seems like body art is really growing in popularity, even in Christian circles. I can’t tell you how often I hear this one, “That tattoo reminds me of my strong faith or how much I love God”. Well it is time to put on the armor (Eph 6:11) and gird ourselves in the truth (Job 38:1-5) so that when people ask us our opinion on this important issue, we are prepared with an answer that positively reflects our moral character. Here are some quick points to be familiar with in regards to tattoos. 

Argument from design- Just like the head of a bat is designed by a woodworker to drive a ball over the fence, or the blade of a skate is designed to cut through the ice, the design of your body reveals what it is for- your skin is not a canvas for painting but a barrier for protecting against infection- the life of joy comes from obeying God’s intent which is revealed in the way He made things. If Scripture helps you reflect like it does me, then check out these beauties- 2 Tim 1:9-10 and Ps 111:3.   

The body talks- what does yours say? You are responsible for what your actions communicate to others. Tattoos are a form of bodily mutilation (because of the permanent scarring that remains even if you have them removed with a laser) and that communicates something to others, even when your intentions are good. Getting a tattoo says, "This is my body and I can do what I want". If you walk into a bank today with a gun visible and no badge, you are responsible for what that communicates. Hundreds of years ago, people paid attention to you, but they did not necessarily assume you were robbing the bank because lots of people carried guns. The culture tells us the norm by which we must live to protect others. Of course the pro-abortion movement uses the slogan, “This is my body” to defend abortion. Fortunately Christians have Christ who redeemed those words and, through the Last Supper, changed them into something selfless, “This is my body given up for you” (Lk 22:19). 

Theology of the Body- God's truth is revealed in and through the dynamism of the body. That is part of the purpose that God planted in the design of our bodies- He utilizes them to communicate His greatness, at least when we cooperate with Him. Our bodies are designed to reveal His glory! We are to present our bodies in a way consistent with cultural norms that will glorify God and not bring scandal to the innocent. In response to this point, I most often here this, “So you mean I am supposed to make my decisions based on the thinking of society?” That is really missing the point. It is about owning up to the way God made our bodies to glorify Him and to the message that we send out based on the way we present ourselves. I mentioned the innocent. Children are innocent and proof of this came the other day when I was sitting in a doctor’s office. I noticed a little girl (about 8 years old) and she was noticing a man with a tattoo on his arm. She whispered to her mom (loud enough for me to hear), “He wouldn’t do that to his body if he knew it belonged to God”. I about fell out of my chair! This is how the innocent think- “It is not yours to paint”. In her own way, this girl perfectly expressed what St. Paul does in 1 Cor 6:19 where he says that “we are not our own”. It would be like me giving you a very expensive piece of art, a masterpiece like a Rembrandt original. And then instead of displaying it proudly in your room, you decide to paint over it! Read Rom 12:1-2- we are to present our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice, not consistent with the latest fad, not in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves, but in a way that gives glory to God.

Keep it practical- I always ask, “When you are much older and you look at the faded remains of your tattoo, will you say, ‘am I ever glad I got that tattoo’?” What purpose does a tattoo serve and how does that fit with the purpose of the body that God intends?  Will it help you find a good job or spouse? Are there better things you could have done with the time and money it took to get one, even if the decision was careful and prayerful? It’s like buying a trendy item of clothing, only with the difference that you can never take it off, even when it goes out of fashion. 

The cult of evil- Have you actually been to a tattoo parlor? You will find demon-worshippers who get branded with their gods in there. No, not everyone in a parlor is a demon worshiper, but that is the very sort of environment that Christians ought to avoid. After renouncing demons, we ought not to return to their dwelling places- we either eat at the table of the Lord or demons (1 Cor 10:21-22). Satan enjoys seeing people go through pain to permanently scar their skin.  Tattoos are part of a cult that belongs to the demonic- the attitude of "do what you want to your body" is the main attitude driving the tattoo industry and that attitude does not come from heaven.

But I know “good people” who have tattoos- Good and faithful people reach bad conclusions, even if they have prayed about them- that is part of being human. To reach the truly Good (or Godly) conclusions, we need to take steps other than patient private prayer, especially when diving into the demonic, because guess who else hears our prayers and thoughts? Satan knows how to fake being God and mislead you. People can pray for a long time about something and reach an objectively bad decision because they don't ever listen to God or they start off listening to Him until they hear what they want to hear from someone that sounds like God. The way to beef up our spirituality so we don’t fall for Satan’s counterfeits is to add more to our spiritual repertoire. Try spiritual direction, spiritual reading, sacraments, fasting, and different types of prayer... use all the spiritual tools. It is not a guarantee that you will never make a bad decision, but you will slowly make better ones. 

Ask questions- Since this is a hot issue for some, questions sometimes work better to get people thinking about the real issues behind tattoos. It is tough to argue a point or debate if people are not open. You can leave people with questions to think about, and then later when you are not around to be proven wrong, they might let their guard down to the truth. Here are some helpful questions: If one culture does something, then it is always ok right? But isn’t there a deeper question- what if the culture is not in line with religious or moral values? In the US, tattoos are about a personal statement of identity. Do tattoos help you identify with Christ? Who do you identify with? Do you want to be accepted by someone else or a group? Is it vanity, rebellion, or a way of saying, “This is my body and I will do what I want with it”?

Is that your final answer? Is there a connection between giving God glory for His love revealed in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and tattooing? If so, then I might have to change my view on this one.

Greg Robeson is retired from parish youth ministry and currently works as the Chief Campaign Speaker for ThriVe St. Louis. Greg and his wife DeAnna live in south county and have four beautiful children- Emily, Isaac, Elijah, and Cate. Greg's life motto is "To have passion, remember His". Greg's hero is JPII. For fun, Greg loves to play frisbee, and run up the “down escalator”. He can be contacted at 1lifeteen@sbcglobal.net.