Tattoo’s – To Hell With Them?

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Many years ago, as I was driving home from visiting my parents in Orange County, I received a phone call from my husband Bob. It was about a week before our wedding anniversary so we were making some special dinner plans when he shared this little tidbit: “I got your anniversary gift today.” I quickly took the bait. “What is it?” I asked. “Well,” he continued, “It will always be yours but you can never have it.” Alright, I thought. He bought himself a new car, a watch, or maybe a new hunting bow. He’s a dude – he can do that. 

   I arrived home to find him waiting for me with my ‘gift.’ I was greeted with, “Happy Anniversary” as he rolled up his shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo on his upper arm which read: Bob & Susan – August 4th 1973. (Our anniversary date.) My first thought was, funny guy, now go wash it off. But looking more closely – it was real – he was now the proud & permanent owner of a genuine tattoo! And he was right – it was mine but I could never have it. Happy Anniversary honey!

   For many people, any mention of people with tattoos conjures up images of rowdy sailors or a Hell’s Angel gang member. As the saying goes, “The world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who have tattoos and those who are afraid of people with tattoo’s.”

   But, our latest generation has pulled the art of tattoo into the mainstream culture. People from all walks of life are becoming a ‘walking canvas’; moms, business people, sports figures, and regular folks – are all jumping into the ‘art world’ of tattoo – only these days it’s called ‘body art.’

   But hello Houston, we have a problem! Leviticus 19:28 seems to prohibit tattooing: “Don’t gash your bodies on behalf of the dead. Don’t tattoo yourselves. I am God.” But I believe another translation gives us a much better look at the true meaning. “You shall not cut yourselves nor put tattoo marks upon yourselves in connection with funeral rites; I am the Lord.” 

   It seems that some pagan cultures had the practice of marking their bodies to remember dead people or to worship their pagan gods. So the tattoo ban came along with other commands as God separated His people from the heathen cultures around them. As one Biblical scholar stated: “It’s asinine to cherry pick one verse out of the law and claim we need to follow it and ignore the rest.” 

   Yet another verse in the Bible seems to reveal a positive reference to tattoos. Isaiah 44:5 tells us that people were writing the name of the Lord on their hands. Essentially they were proclaiming they belonged to God. The popular evangelist Joyce Meyer recently told her audience that she now has two tattoo’s. One – a small cross and another on her ankle – ‘love’ – its purpose is to remind her to always walk in love. Definitely not ‘dead people’ tattoo’s!!

   There is one more verse I want to share that will blow your mind. There was a time when Israel was in great trouble – God was judging them for their rebellion. The Babylonians had come in and destroyed their country and taken many captives. We find God giving them a pep talk in Isaiah 49. He had not forgotten them – things would get better. Here’s how verse 16 reads: “See, I have tattooed your name upon My palm.” God had not forsaken them, He loved them and had put their names on His hands so He could see them often. 

   So – does getting a tattoo send a person to Hell? Far from it. You don’t go to Hell for having a tattoo. You go to Hell for not repenting of your sins and not putting your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. 

   So – please allow me to offer some advice. If you’re going for a tattoo, check twice for typos & spelling errors. Don’t let any of these real ink-mistakes happen to you: Chinese symbols which translated, ‘turkey sandwich.’ Or another ink goof which read – “Thudder only happens when it’s raisin.” Or this bungle – “Nolege is power.” Please use the brain God gave you if you’re going permanent. Just sayin’…

Bob and Susan Beckett pastor The Dwelling Place City Church at 27100 Girard Street in Hemet, CA. For more information, you may contact them at dpcitychuch.org

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