BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
TEXT: 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 honour God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
If you have been reading through this book you will have become familiar with our text for this question! So many questions we have as teenagers are to do with our bodies so it is not surprising that this verse, which states a major guiding principle, is used so much. Maybe it would be a good idea to have it as one of your verses to memorise? (I hope you do memorise the Word of God and store it up in your heart).
It’s also essential to realise that the Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts – it’s not a moral checklist. Rather it gives us Christ and it gives us the principles on which we can base our life. The Bible treats us like responsible adults who have the capacity to think for ourselves and to work out God’s Word in our local circumstances. So with that in mind let’s look briefly at the two issues mentioned in our questions. Is it a sin to have a tattoo?
At first glance the answer seems to be an obvious yes. After all doesn’t Leviticus 19:28 say: ‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.’ But that is the danger with taking a cut and paste verse approach to the Bible – remember the principle that we have stated several times – everything must be taken in context. Is this like the verse afterwards which tells fathers not to make their daughters prostitutes or the one before which tells them not to cut their hair at the sides or trim their beards?! Are we going to say that all of them apply equally today or that none of them apply? It seems to me that neither of these options are biblical.
In the context of the Levitical law and culture of that day, the shaping of the hair and trimming of beards, as well as tattooing patterns on the skin, were part of pagan mourning practice. God is saying don’t mourn like pagans. Tattoos were often of pagan deities and were considered to be a dishonouring of the image of God in a person. (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). Neither of these practices were acceptable to the covenant people of God, who were to be separate/holy.
So what about tattoos today? I don’t think it is sinful to get a tattoo per se. It all depends what kind of tattoo and what the motive is. Interesting side fact: Ronaldo, the Real Madrid world cup star, does not have a tattoo because he wants to be able to give blood! I also think we need to be aware of the cultural context. Why are tattoos so popular today? Is it because as a society we are reverting to a pagan view of the body? If so, Christians need to be even more careful not to reflect that.
What about drinking alcohol? Psalm 104:15 thanks God for ‘wine that gladdens human hearts’. Jesus turned water into high quality wine (John 2:1-10). The memorial feast he established (communion) had wine as one of its two major elements. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells Timothy to stop drinking just water and take a little wine for his stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23). On the other hand there are strong warnings in the Bible against drunkenness – and we are commanded not to get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery but to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The Bible’s position is, then, that alcohol is a gift from God, but it should be used properly and not to excess.
What does this mean for us? We are free to drink alcohol and we are free not to. Another very important factor is to consider those around us. If you have a friend who is an alcoholic it would be unwise to drink in their presence. If there are those of our friends and family who abuse alcohol you don’t want to encourage them. But please remember not to judge others for doing something that the Bible does not condemn.
How do we know what is right and wrong on these and other issues? Sometimes our conscience, sometimes our culture, but always the Word of God. Consciences can be seared and cultures can be corrupted – but the Word of God remains pure for all generations. We should not do what he has forbidden or refuse to do what he has commanded. There is a great liberty in understanding and applying this. In all of this our desire is to show our love for God by obeying his commands (1 John 5:3). We follow Jesus.
In this respect Revelation 19:16 has an interesting word about a ‘tattoo’ on Jesus: ‘On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’ He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Follow Jesus and you won’t get lost or wander into the wilderness.
CONSIDER: Why do you think God has not given a detailed set of rules for every situation?
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics – John Murray
Knowing God’s Will – M. Blaine Smith
PRAYER: How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees (Psalm 119:9-12).
A.S.K 45 – Help – My Girlfriend’s Pregnant
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