BODY PIERCING AND TATTOO, CONDEMNABLE MARKS… BY WHOM?!



by João Marcos Bezerra (jmarcoscb@gmail.com)
Translated by Talyta Rolim

For starters, I'll let the fans and supporters of body piercing and tattoo know that I will not defend the use of this art and also to the staunchest critics that it is not my intention here to condemn. The purpose of this article is to reflect whether the Bible prohibits it or not and what the biblical criteria for the use or not of body piercing and tattoo are (does it have?!). Therefore, I will be direct right away and warn that there is no specific biblical text prohibiting the use of these marks, but there are important criteria and principles to be taken into consideration.
To begin with, the text of Leviticus 19:28 is the most widely used to combat the use of these body ornaments: "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD". When the Lord told Moses to write this warning to the Hebrews, He began by saying, "You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices" (Lev 18.3). Then, there are three considerations here:
1) The goal was to remember that they were the chosen people and should behave with holiness. Body marks to honor the dead and tattooing was part of religious rituals of the Egyptian people and Canaanites;
2) The reason one should not mark the body for were the dead. Nowadays, it would be like tattooing the name or face of someone in his or her honor. The person can be alive today, but tomorrow may be a dead one (lol);
3) Among other guidelines in this text was sexual conduct, guidance for agriculture and also the haircut and shave. So why, with so many guidelines in these chapters, we give greater emphasis to the tattoo? With the exception of this verse, only Deuteronomy 14.1 provides guidance on cuts on the body but it's a repetition of the law.
Since we cannot use this string as input to condemn these body ornaments, let's go to the other principles, as the issue of honor to parents and spiritual leaders. ("Huh?! What do you mean?!"). Let's go to what the Bible writes:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Ex 20:12)
'Honor your father and mother', which is the first commandment with a promise. (Eph 6.2)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Col. 3:20)
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

"Does this mean that I can only pierce and/or tattoo my body if my parents allow it?!". The answer is YES! - "Oh, but I'm over 18!" Then ask their "blessing" out of respect. "And what's this about leaders?!" Remember that they hold you dear and are spiritually responsible for you before God. In addition, they should know the church and the community that you are part of better. They can avoid embarrassment and unnecessary divergence. If you do not trust your pastor or his immediate leader (cell leader, small group or ministry) to guide you spiritually, I recommend that you change your community or ministry (this is a topic for another text). Thus, if your parents do not allow it or your pastor/leader thinks it's not convenient, do not do it! However, if they allow it or are indifferent to it - let us turn to other issues.
In Romans 14 the Apostle Paul deals with how to deal with the weak in faith and recommends that we should not indulge in futile debates. As an example, he talks about being vegetarian or not. Who is it do not condemn those who are not, and vice versa. In verse 23 ends the chapter as follows: "But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin". I understand it means "If you have doubts on whether you should do something, don't do it because you will be condemned by doubt itself". So if you are not sure if it's right or wrong to wear ornaments on your body, do not do it!
"Ok! But since there is no condemnation in the Bible, my parents and leaders also do not prohibit and I'm "sure" it's right, what can stop me from piercing or tattooing my body?!”. Below is what the Scriptures say more about it:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life —comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2.15,16)
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12)

Do you want to do this for fad or to show any part of your body? If it is to show that you are within the secular and social standards or how your body is beautiful and that ornament will leave you even more beautiful, don't do it!
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." In the face of all previous approvals, this is the only thing that can confirm that you should use or not use these props, because God is the owner of your body: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."(1 Cor 6.19-20).
Finally, I like to think as follows: if I am part of a community where the piercing and/or tattooing the body will make it easier for people to accept me to hear the Gospel message, then I will do as 1 Corinthians 9.18-23 say (examples: bikers, rockers, punks, skinheads etc). Now, if I am part of a community and church where these body ornaments are not well seen and will not reach anyone with the Gospel with this, there is no need to wear them. Moreover, I still give you an advice from some of my friends and my wife: "avoid tattooing and piercing your body when very young because ideas change very quickly and tomorrow you may regret and have no way to undo it, just like me".
I hope to have helped the defenders and critics of this art to understand better what the Bible says on this subject so that we respect who has it and be respected for not having it. The Word of God must be our only guide for faith and practice to conduct our behavior and orient our choices at every stage of life. God bless!

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