“To Ink or Not to Ink?”
Many Christians today ask about tattoos and piercings and how or not, these apply to one’s spiritual walk? Many on the political and social conservative ‘right’ decry the advent of a new rebellion running rampant within society as evidenced by the voluminous and multitudinous number of tattooed and pierced bodies within our midst. Religion’s fundamentalist tenants of biblical thought and rendition grasped firmly in hand are unabashedly towed fragrantly to the front lines of the discussion. Regarded as an apostate activity by many, the use and display of these upon the 'body temple’ proponants lends a clamor for automatic denunciation of said offenders. To those in the Christian community contemplating or asking about a first “tat” or inquiring as to new or additional inkings or piercings, it is in the book of Leviticus, always heralded with staunch aplomb by those 'in the know' wherein God prescribes to Moses the laws of sins transgression. It is there they find the quoted passage, “Do not put tattoo marks on yourselves.”(Leviticus 19:28)
As with most of what God has for us as listeners and hearers of His word, this directive has a two-fold meaning and interpretation. First, as creations of God our bodies hold a God given soul connection between us and Him. It is by this conceptual reasoning that our human body is often described or inferred to as ‘a temple.’ The second is more discreet as it refers to God’s desire that we have no idols, which we then place before Him, as the primary desire of our hearts and being. Those things we idolize are often evidenced by our wish to extoll or parade their prominent importance to us and the profound emotional attachments that they may represent to our (inner) being (soul). These types of expressions by the believer become an affront to God by both their exhibition and their aesthetic placement.
It’s important to remember that prior to the renowned monotheism of Abraham, mankind struggled with the natural elements of his world within the framework and illumination of mythological gods and their powers through which he was able to better understand and explain his inherent smallness and weakness in or against their omnipotent presence. By Old Testament standards and perhaps deemed Avant Garde of the primitive or spiritually void, any devotionally displayed image which may represent idolatry is thought to therefore further reinforce and relegate God’s presence and existence to a non-preferential status. Without a personal and reciprocal relationship bond with the monotheistic God, it was necessary for man to acknowledge and honor a multitude of providential powers who appeared and were believed to be in control of his uncontrollable world. Resplendent glory to one’s gods was expressed through many visible concrete modeling behaviors, tattooing and piercings being but two examples.
For believers within the Christian faith, as fundamental as the Leviticus directive against tattooing is we also find in the Book of John a codicil in Christ’s own words, which helps us to better comprehend God’s love and acceptance of who we are; tattooed, pierced, or not. Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them they (the hearers of His words) would not be guilty of sin.” (John 15:22) This statement, while not relieving the listener of responsibility allows for forgiveness by the steps of repentance. And in so doing, sets the stage for future redemption by sidestepping past ignorance fueled actions.
Having now heard the words of Christ himself coupled with our declared desire and choice to follow His model of behavior as Spiritual Christians, we are now held truly accountable for our actions. Those transgressions we may commit after hearing our New Testament instructions and teachings of Christ place us in a position to carry any burdens (‘our daily cross’) as the result of our new personal choices. As hearers and listeners of God’s Word we now know more clearly what it is God would have us do. (John 15:22b) for “Now we have no excuses (borne of ignorance) for our sins.”
Prior to hearing Jesus’ statements and becoming observant followers of His examples and teachings, we are often ignorant in the ways on our journey and the pathway back to God the Father. As self-proclaimed followers of Christ any new sinful actions now hold us more accountable than did our previous past actions. (John 15:24; “If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.”) Our prior sinful nature is forgivable; but only if we acknowledge and repent (actually change our new and future actions).
Jesus by His very nature is our example of the difference between our well practiced disobedience and more right(eous) behavior. For the believer of Jesus, he has spoken and shown us by His ways. Having heard and seen the differences, we (should) now know and better understand our own possible responses regarding new behavior questions and situations. The Lord God is more concerned that we have His love and a personal relationship with Him “tattooed upon our hearts” as shown by our new “Christ-like” responses to daily life, than He is to inks or penetrations which might adorne our skin.
Faced with new challenges, questions and decisions resulting in a query of “Should I?” upon hearing Jesus describe the difference between what may have taken place cloaked in the shadows of our past ignorance, versus what we might now do in the light of our changed and present understanding, Jesus sums it up for us this way; “Simply let your Yes be Yes, and your No be No. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
In the Hawaiian language, "Mana'o" (ma na o) is the word used to describe 'thoughts, ideas, and opinions'.
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