People come to Christ with many different backgrounds. No one can expect we become Christians with perfect, pure backgrounds. We bring a lot of baggage to our relationship with Jesus. And he takes us in.
We often come to Christ with messed up lives. Many recent converts have issues that continue beyond their salvation. Jesus makes us new creatures in Christ, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have ongoing issues caused by our previous sin.
How do we deal with the tough issues of sexual purity, tattoos, body piercings, and the like? The Bible talks about all of these. Are tattoos and body piercings important to God? Are they really a big deal? No one would argue sexual purity isn’t important to him.
The Bible calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). He cares what we do with and to our bodies. We must present ourselves pure before the Lord even in what we do with our bodies.
Let’s look at the Scriptures on these three issues and see what the Bible counsels us to do about them. We know God wants purity in our lives as Christians. But how do we do that with previous sin issues that continue into our new life as believers in Jesus?
There are many types of relationships that deal with sexuality. Especially in American culture today, we have many variations in sexual deviances. This is according to the Bible’s standards on sexual relationships.
In the Bible, there is one standard for sexual relationships that please God. Everything outside of marriage between a man and a woman is considered sexual sin. The Bible defines marriage as the only proper channel for sexual desire.
Don’t get me wrong. God created sex to be pleasurable and fruitful between a man and woman in marriage. In the very beginning, he ordained and instituted marriage, and one of the benefits of marriage is sex. It wasn’t just designed to produce offspring. It’s also enjoyable when experienced within the bond of marriage.
God designed sex to be more than just a physical act. Within the bonding of a sexual relationship is the bonding of soul, spirit, emotions, and attachment. One image I remember from being a teenager is teaching about tape. Once you stick it to an object, a little bit of it becomes part of that object if you rip it off.
When we have intimacy and sex with another person, part of ourselves becomes part of them by nature. But it’s not just physical. We become emotionally attached, and part of ourselves becomes part of them.
That’s why the Bible is so particular about sex and marriage. Marriage binds us one to another. We become intimate not just physically but emotionally, spiritually, mentally, in every way. That’s why the Bible says, “the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
With this understanding of what happens in the act of sex, we begin to understand why the Bible doesn’t permit any other form of sexual activity in us. Throughout the Bible you find prohibitions against all kinds of sexual acts, all kinds outside of marriage.
The Bible talks about God’s relationship with Israel as a spiritual marriage. When Israel worships idols of any kind, God considers idolatry to be spiritual adultery. He says that he is Israel’s husband and they have committed adultery with idols. The prophetic books have many vivid images of idolatry as adultery.
Jesus describes even the lust in the heart and mind as the precursor to the physical act. He views anyone who lusts after the opposite gender as committing adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:27-30). We are guilty of sin in our minds before we are guilty of sin on our hands.
Some of the prohibitions in sexual activity outside of marriage range from pornography, bestiality, having sex with family members, homosexuality, and several others. In the New Testament, the word for sexual immorality is a junk drawer term for everything we could come up with not listed in Scripture.
Instead of thinking of new ways to get around all of these examples of sexual immorality explicitly mentioned in Scripture as sins against God, the word for sexual immorality covers everything we could think of outside of marriage. If you are single, even sexual thoughts fall under lust and violate the scriptural standard of marriage is the only pathway to sexual purity.
In our culture, we may think we are more advanced than the bounds of Scripture, those ancient prudish documents. But God wants us to be whole. We can’t have that high standard if we are leaving a little bit of ourselves with every sexual partner outside of marriage.
I will finish this section with a quick note about our culture. We think we are more informed than Scripture so we can have any relationship we want. We balk against the idea that homosexuality, transgender, and a host of our other sexual issues are against God’s standards.
Christians must be careful not to single out any of these categorized sexual sins in the Bible with any others. Any sexual sin is a violation of God’s high standards for us. We can’t single out one over others.
Going beyond this, sexual sins must be treated as any other sin. Any sin we commit violates God’s standards and brings us short of his glory (Romans 3:23). All of them lead to death (Romans 6:23). As Christians, we must not single out these sins above others.
We must treat all sin with a desire for repentance and God’s grace. When we see others who need this same grace, we must treat them with love and truth. We must love them enough to speak the truth, but in love. But we must not dismiss it under God’s forgiveness and not speak the truth. We need both, no matter what the sin.
God forgives us of a multitude of sins. Jesus’ blood has the power to cover our sins and bring grace and healing. He has rescued and freed us from all sin. We give him glory for his grace extended to us and the restoration of our relationship with him. Let us as Christians remember this for ourselves and others who have sinned against God.
But God’s high standards must not be ignored. Even after we come to Christ under his grace, we must not treat that grace as freedom to sin (Romans 6:1). We don’t get a free pass just because God is gracious. All sin comes under his judgment.
He expects us as his children to follow his house rules. He has grace when we fall short as long as we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). That is best for us is to live holy before him and separate ourselves from the sin of the world.
I don’t want you to think anything of me for presenting the Bible’s approach to tattoos. Most people think this is not a big deal. I still haven’t decided how to talk about this with other people. I have my own standards and views based on my study of Scripture and consultation with the Holy Spirit for my own life.
Why do I even need to talk about tattoos? Because the Bible lays out principles and standards for our bodies. God’s standards are always high in Scripture. One of the reasons for talking about tattoos is their connection in the Bible to idol worship.
This violates the first of the Ten Commandments. We shall have no other gods before our Lord. Most people would say there tattoos have nothing to do with idol worship. But they also have a connection to death. Think of all of the tattoos you have seen. There are tattoos of crosses, graves, skulls, and a host of other images of death.
You have to ask yourself as a Christian, do I wish to be connected with death or with life? It’s true that Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a tomb, and that process brought us eternal life as we believe in him. His goal was life, not death. The only reason he had to go through death in our place was because of our sin.
Here’s what the Bible has to say about tattoos. Old Testament laws forbade tattoos and cutting the body (Leviticus 19:28). Other nations used these practices in idol worship (Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1).
God sends two messages with these laws. First, Israel must not worship idols. Second, Israel must not be like the nations. The equivalent for Christians is to not be like the world. Tattoos can give us the ability to make our bodies in our own image rather than the image of God.
When we consider the full range of meaning of tattoos, it places the question of why we have them. Some Christians get tattoos of Scripture, crosses, and other types of images. One thing they often tell me is that it provides an open door for witnessing.
This may be the case if that is the intent of getting the tattoo. However, what happened to opening our mouths and witnessing with our tongues the works of God in our lives? Having tattoos to witness to others is a passive witness instead of an active one. Instead of speaking to others about what God has done, we wait for them to notice the tattoo and ask us questions.
Please understand. I’m not saying that I’m totally against tattoos. I’m raising issues each of us needs to think about before we get tattoos. We must identify more with God than the world. The world gets tattoos.
But there are also places in the Scriptures where tattoos have been used in a positive light, or at least used as an illustration of permanence and allegiance. For instance, God shows his allegiance of his covenant and permanence of relationship with Israel by engraving their name on his palms (Isaiah 66:16).
In Revelation 19:16, Jesus rides into battle with, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” tattooed on his thigh. So there are possibilities that Christian tattoos may have a positive side. You must consult with the Holy Spirit and Scripture to find out his standards for your life and body.
Body piercings traditionally are done to wear jewelry, especially earrings. For instance, God puts earrings and jewelry on his people to lavish his blessings and love for them (Ezekiel 16:12). But the Bible talks about body piercings in the context of slavery (Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17). The master of the slave pierced his ear with an awl to indicate ownership.
People who cut themselves were usually doing it for idolatry (Leviticus 19:28). On Mount Carmel the prophets of Baal worship their god by cutting themselves to get his attention (1 Kings 18:28).
These are some of the negative connections the Bible makes with body cutting in piercings. In our world today, people pierce much more than their ears. One of my thoughts about extreme body piercing is its purpose. Do people do this to make their bodies in their own images?
As Christians, we must consider why we do these practices. Is it to be like the world? Does it have meaning behind it? What are we doing it for? These are pivotal matters for holiness. We must think them through, pray about them, and study what the Bible says about them. But it’s not what other Christians say. It’s what the Holy Spirit tells us.
One more note about tattoos and body piercings. If you got them before you became a Christian and you come to the personal standard that they are not God’s best for you, don’t feel guilty. Things we did before we met Christ fall under his grace.
Some people go to extreme lengths of getting tattoos removed. If you feel your conscience cannot be assuaged by God’s grace, remember that this is a very expensive process. If the Lord doesn’t judge you in this matter, no one else should. They can become part of your testimony of what you did before you met Christ and after you met him.
I’m not steadfastly against tattoos and body piercings. I see both positive and negative images of both in the Bible. It all comes down to the reasons for getting them. Is it to identify if the world, with death and slavery? Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).
When it comes to sexual impurity of all kinds, the Bible is very clear. We must not be mastered by anything other than Christ our Lord. I don’t want to sound religious about these things. I also don’t want to sound legalistic.
So I leave it up to the Holy Spirit. He and I have discussed what the Bible says about these things for my personal life. But I don’t push my views on others. I don’t judge others because it’s not for me to judge anyone. These things are matters between you and the Lord.
Leave a comment and describe how you deal with these issues. Have you ever researched what the Scriptures say about them? The most illuminating experience you can have is to study Scripture and speak to the Spirit about these issues for your life. Know where you stand but don’t speak for the Spirit in other people’s lives.