I have tattoos.
I was 16 when I got my first tattoo, one of 90s comic strip juggernaut Calvin and Hobbes. The spirit that the creative young boy and his sidekick imaginary tiger resonated with the collegiate me. To date, there has never been a comic strip that has communicated the many questions that life can bring up, and deal with the myriad answers with which one can come up to answer, than Calvin and Hobbes. It was a brilliant strip, and one that has played a significant role in my life. It would be the first of three Calvin and Hobbes tattoos I would go on to get.
On August 17, 2001, I welcomed Jesus Christ into my life. In the course of my Christian life, I’ve gotten flak for having these tattoos. “Christians shouldn’t have tattoos,” they say, then they bring up Leviticus 19:28, which says, “do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” (You can imagine their thoughts, specifically, about the ankh, which came after a dalliance with Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.)
Now, I am thankful to people who bring up Leviticus. I believe they are dedicated to and have a heart for God and His Word, the Bible. They are passionate about the Old Testament law because it gives them a great foundation from which to please God.
Which brings me to the New Testament. The author of Hebrews writes, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
This verse tells us that God speaks to us through Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment and embodiment of Old Testament prophecy and the only bridge to God. Without and apart from Christ, we literally have no connection to God. The Old Testament laws worked for a time when God spoke to His people through the prophets; I am more inclined, however, to follow what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, says.
Now, what does Christ–and Paul, whose letters comprise the majority of the books of the New Testament apart from the gospels, have to say about tattoos?
Surprisingly little. Actually, nothing. Here’s what I know Christ wants me to do.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus tells me that I am called to love. :) He also tells me in Matthew 28:19:
“19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
He tells me to preach the gospel and to make disciples. With whom can I share the gospel? Anyone I encounter, of course. However, many of the Christians I know instinctively avoid people with skin art. And here, ladies and gents, is my opening.
People with tattoos are deserving of love, and deserve to hear the gospel. But, as Paul says in Romans 10:15, “And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? And how shall they preach if they have not been sent?” Paul also says so powerfully in 1 Corinthians 9:22, that he becomes “all things to all people, that by all means (we) might save some.” The line that follows is my favorite: “do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”