Christians have been debating since the time of Jesus about
what is right living and what must be avoided. You don’t have to look farther
than the New Testament for evidence of this. In Romans 13 and 14, Paul tells us
to stop arguing about how others live out their faith. Instead he calls us to
reach out to one another in love. “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or
why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s
judgment seat” (Rom. 14:10, NIV).
Imagine a worship service. In the front row sits a straight-laced, clean-shaven
man with his hands lifted high. He sings the words with expert timing. He knows
the words by heart so he doesn’t need to look at the screen; in fact he is even
able to let his mind wander a little to the football game scheduled after the
Meanwhile, a young man in the row behind has tattoos
covering his arms and peeking out of his shirt collar. He also raises his
hands. But instead of letting his mind wander, tears run down his cheeks as he
completely loses himself in God’s presence.
Which offering of worship do you think God prefers?
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man
looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I have always felt that my decisions were
scrutinized more than the other children around me. I had the eyes of the
church watching me, wanting me to set an example for others. Knowing that my
choices influenced those around me I did not take the decision to get my first
tattoo lightly. I prayerfully searched the scriptures for direction.
In my search I came across examples where God said He was
more concerned about motivations of heart than actions. The parable of the tax
collector and the Pharisee praying in the synagogue (see Luke 18:9-14) reminds
us that when we pray it should be to communicate with God-not for the attention
More than anything, Jesus is concerned with our motivation. He rebuked Peter in
Matthew 16, even calling him Satan because he disagreed with Jesus about the
suffering He had to endure. Not wanting Jesus to be killed seems like the right
thing, but Peter was putting his selfish desires in front of the will of God.
Some Christians say tattoos are a defilement of the Lord’s temple. I say
motivation matters. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body”
(1 Cor. 6:19-20). I personally don’t see how a tattoo of a cross or a short
prayer like the one across my ankles (which says, “Lord Guide My Steps”) can
possibly be dishonoring God or defiling His temple. I would be more concerned
with the Christian who eats fast food five times a week. What is he doing to
When strangers see my tattoos and ask, “What does that mean?” I tell them my
tattoos serve as a constant reminder that I have been forgiven. This reminds me
that I need to forgive others. They also remind me that a step taken without
Gods guidance isn’t one worth taking, and that I need to walk with purpose and
love during my short time here on earth.
Motivation matters. Whatever action I take, I want to have the right motives.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of
God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
I plead with those who are judging people with tattoos. Look at your heart-and
remember the words of Paul in Romans 14:13-14: “Therefore let us stop passing
judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling
block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am
fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards
something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.”