‘From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:17).’
Persecution and Testimony
Paul had just written, ‘But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).’ And yet, what an honour it was to be able to say without boasting that he had suffered because Christ had suffered, and the scars of his body showed the proof of what he said to be true. He suffered (2 Corinthians 11:22-33) for his witness and for preaching the good news of salvation in Jesus (Isaiah 52:7).
Now I know of one Christian who has suffered persecution for her faith, not because she has physical scars that disfigure her body, but because she has multiple tattoos over her body. The persecution has come from so-called Christians who besmirch her for the fact that she was tattooed before she came to be a Christian!
The proof of her validity as a Christian comes with her testimony and life-style. She is living fruit and a living testimony (Colossians 1:10). She lives the life of faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9) in her Redeemer. She has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and no longer lives to the world. She boasts in ‘the cross of (6:14)’ of her Lord Jesus Christ, and recognises that her weakness in herself is her strength in the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:9), because His power is effective in her. She is an overcomer, (Revelation 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5) i.e., a believer.
Where do these ‘legalistic downers’ find their rules upon which they base their misguided judgments on our sister in Christ? No doubt it is from Leviticus 19:28: ‘You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.’
This can be found in a list of general taboos to be kept by the Old Testament Israelites – all part of the Mosaic law required to be obeyed by them. You’ll note that in verse 30 it states, ‘You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD.’
Well, for a staters, no New Testament Christian was obliged to keep the *Sabbath, which was the requirement of the fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). They didn’t have to ‘reverence’ God’s earthly sanctuary (Leviticus 26:2), for they didn’t subscribe to the practice of offering sacrifices, nor to any of the priestly offerings for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 8). Christ was their perfect once-for-all sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins (9:28).
New Testament Freedom
To emphasise differences between the practices of the Old Testament Israelites and the New Testament Christians, I ask, “Did any NT church leaders tell those under their care that they ‘should not shave around the sides of’ their ‘heads’, or not ‘disfigure the edges of’ their ‘beards’ (Leviticus 19:27)?’ Not a bit of it; in fact Paul said it was a dishonour for men to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11: 14). There certainly was no instruction forbidding NT believers from having tattoos.
Christians are made free in Christ (John 8:36) to have tattoos, but although ‘all things are permissible’, not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). Therefore, in view of this and Paul’s directive to offer one’s ‘body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1)’ to God, and since it is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), a Christian should honour the sanctity given to it. A Christian should respect his body, because it belongs to God (vv 19, 20).
However, new converts who are already tattooed, can, with a clear conscience, know that they are not required to have their tattoos removed – for God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), not at the outer appearance of a person. He has made believers whole, and perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
Those misguided or ignorant Christians who have unwittingly persecuted our sister in Christ would do well to ‘thoroughly’ study God’s Scriptures for gaining a better understanding of them (Psalm 119:11). By so doing they would gain maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28), and so represent Him more honourably. In light of their newly gained knowledge they may consider apologising to the one they have hurt, and to ask for her forgiveness (James 5:16).
Irrespective of their actions, our sister in Christ will be comforted in knowing that any suffering for her faith brings joy to her heart (James 1:2, 3), and by that suffering she truly knows she is a child of God (1 John 5:4).
‘May God make His face shine upon her (Numbers 6:25; Psalm 67:1) and bless her with the abundance in His love (John 10:10).’