I’ve read quite a few “Christian” articles on tattoos, and, typically, the overwhelming majority errantly claims that people with tattoos are sinners who are gambling with their salvation by doing something so appalling to their bodies, which is why I put parenthesis around the word Christian.
However, today I happened upon an article from Relevant Magazine on tattoos that actually merited a response. In his article, Matthew Lee Anderson essentially argues that Christians should refrain from getting tattoos (or at least be very hesitant about getting them) for the sake of Christian unity. All in all, it wasn’t too bad of an argument; except for the fact that Anderson failed to realize that Christian liberty goes both ways.
In his article, Anderson stated, “The purpose and goal of Christian freedom is love and unity, which sometimes may mean joyfully relinquishing desires for the sake of others. Tattoos should not be occasions for asserting one’s rights against others, but of listening, learning and seeking the unity God has brought in Christ.” I wholeheartedly agree with Anderson that Christians should seek to relinquish their desires for the sake of love, but why do those with tattoos always have to be the ones to relinquish? It’s not like I’m going to drag a fellow Christian into a tattoo parlor, so why should other Christians be able to drag me out of one?
I have a tattoo on my arm and a tattoo on my chest. The one on my chest reminds me of the work that God has done in my heart, and the one on my arm reminds me of the eternal hope that I should live my life by. So how exactly do those tattoos distract others or myself from the glory of God? I’ve only had the tattoo on my arm for a couple of days now, yet I’ve already had quite a few conversations with complete strangers about the gospel when they ask me what it means. How many times have you had a Christ-centered conversation with others that was started by your unblemished skin?
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what brings more glory to God? A group of Christians who are similar in almost every way, or a group of Christians who are so diverse that only God could have brought them together? I believe that in the latter we see true Christian freedom and unity.
Sidebar: This is not my main point, but it really annoys me when people play the translation card. It is widely regarded in biblical academic circles that the NASB and ESV are the two most accurate English translations of the Bible in existence. Additionally, when it comes to Revelation 19:16, they say exactly the same thing. Therefore, I’m going to trust the opinion of the scholars who were ordained by God to translate the Bible for hundred of millions of people over some statement by an obscure scholar who I had never even heard of before he was dredged up to support an opinionated view. (Sorry if that sounded antagonistic. I mean no offense to either Anderson or Osborne.)