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What Does the Bible Say About Tattoo's and Body Piercings

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Sermon shared by Jake Kircher

September 2008
Summary: Tattoos and body piercings are a very controversial subject within the church. We need to understand a Biblical mindset about these issues!
Tags: Youth, Art (add tag)
Audience: General teen
Sermon:
I have to admit, this week has been a TON of fun, researching and reading about this topic of tattoos and body piercing. (I will just preface here at the beginning that the majority of our conversation will revolve around tattoos specifically but I think the issue of piercing is really the same conversation.) The way I want to start though today is giving you all the floor to share your opinions. So, the question on the table is, “What does God think about tattoos and body piercing?” (Bonus points if you can back up your argument with facts and not just opinion).

It doesn’t take a genius to know that the idea of tattoos and body piercing is a pretty controversial topic between generations and definitely within the church. This became really clear as I did my research. One article bluntly said they were wrong and said, “The clear statement from the word of God does not settle anything for this generation of disobedient, carnal, worldly, tolerant, non-judgmental, Christians. Rather than obey God, they run miles and miles and miles to "justify" their open disobedience to the Word of God.” That’s pretty harsh! But then one of my commentaries bluntly claimed, “There is nothing morally wrong with…tattooing.” So, which is right?
What I want to do for the rest of our time together is simply dive into the Bible and attempt to make sense of this issue. My goal is not to “convince” you all one way or the other but to simply encourage each of you to look at what God’s Word says and make your own decision.
So let’s start off by looking at the verses in the Bible that mention tattoos. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you want to look at it, there really is only one. (Some people argue that Genesis 4:15 and Galatians 6:17 reference tattoos but generally the Genesis passage is unclear of what it means and the Galatians passage really refers to scars from Paul being beaten). Let’s open our Bibles to Leviticus 19:28. (What are your basic thoughts about this passage?)
There are one of two thoughts that you can take from this passage. The first response is simply, “There it is, plain and clear.” God’s Word says it is wrong, so it’s wrong. The issue with that response though is when you look at the surrounding verses. Verse 26 basically says don’t eat steak. Verse 27 says don’t cut the hair on the side of your head or shave your beards. And there are more like this within this same chapter. So if you are going to claim that God said tattoos are wrong based on this text then you better give up steak and stop cutting your hair and shaving…
The second approach is to claim that it was a cultural issue that no longer applies because Christ died to fulfill the law and give us freedom (Romans 10:4, Galatians 3:23-25, Ephesians 2:15). This would be the same reason why we don’t have to offer animal sacrifices anymore. The argument is that these verses, specifically verses 26-31, were to discourage participating in pagan practices during this time period. These were things that people were doing to “earn” the favor of the gods and be “good” religious people. Because tattoos are not often used within our culture in this manner, then we don’t have anything to worry about.
The other question this approach raises though is that God was calling the Israelites to be set apart and different from the world, so would this still apply for tattoos today?
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