“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 Corinthians 19-20
Justin Bieber recently got a tattoo on his body with the name of Jesus in Hebrew. You can read about it here
Please don’t go away. Keep reading. This is not a religious indictment on tattoos per se. This post is really just my opinion about tattoos in general, from a Christian perspective. This is not the old guy on the corner yelling “Get off my lawn.” I promise.
So what do I think about Justin Bieber, or anyone, getting a tattoo of Jesus? It is actually a difficult question to answer. On the one hand we have the passage above, that puts such great emphasis on how God expects us to treat our own bodies. On the other, it is a tattoo of Jesus. I mean if you are going to get a tattoo, why not one that tells the world that you follow our great Savior, right?
Well, I can tell you that I have no tattoos, not even of Jesus. I have never really liked tattoos. I always considered them to detract rather than add. You see, I have always considered my body to be something given to me by God, and a tattoo was something that – well – was not right. Yes I know that in society today, tattoos are widely accepted. Yes I know that this position makes me somewhat of an old fuddy duddy. By no means do I consider tattoos some really bad evil thing you should be condemned for, but I have always considered them a negative thing. Hey it is just one guy’s opinion, take it or leave it.
But is it really a sin? Is it really wrong? I mean, if you get a tattoo for the purpose of honoring God, is it acceptable? That is a very good question, and here is my opinion.
Why are you doing it? No I mean really, deep down inside the depths of your soul – why? There is another article about this subject, which you can read here. It is talks of a pastor who has tattoos himself and approves of them as memorials. I get it. I can see how a tattoo can be used as a memorial to Jesus, as a powerful statement of faith. However, it is a slippery slope for us, and one we should think seriously about. Before you go out and get yourself a Yeshua tattoo to match the one Justin got, be sure that is really why you are doing it. Let’s make sure this is really not something you are doing out of pride, rather than as a statement of faith. C.S. Lewis, considered one of the great Christian writers of our time, explains pride this way:
“The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The form of pride I am talking about specifically here is vanity. The problem with this particular vice is simply that in many cases, it is hidden from us. How many times have we seen people do very good things for the wrong reasons? Sometimes it is the person giving to the poor to impress other people, or going to church to be seen by others as good. There are so many examples of pride, where we place ourselves first and act out of vanity or conceit, rather than the selfless humble way in which Jesus would prefer.
So in that respect, my word of caution is this. If you truly are getting that tattoo in honor of Jesus, and it is an act of humble recognition of your commitment, who am I to say it is not a good thing? But if your real desire is to stand out in the crowd, to puff yourself up or say “hey look at me, look how great I am”, then my suggestion to you is simply – pray about your decision. The tattoo artist will still be there tomorrow if this is the right decision. But make sure your decision is for the right reasons.
“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
What a beautiful passage this is. It shows how Jesus, as great as He was, humbled Himself to minister to His people. What better way of closing my post than to say that with regard to tattoos, as Christians we are to humble ourselves as Jesus did. Let’s remember that Jesus can see our actions. Jesus does not need a tattoo to know your commitment to Him, and the outside world will benefit more from your humility and selflessness, than the attention you attract by your outward display of a tattoo.