Thursday, July 19, 2012

OMG! Taboo: Tattoo!

I was introduced to the Christian faith as an obnoxious punk freshman in High School.
Mohawks, dirty jeans with sewn on patches, studded belts and drawn on tattoos is how I rolled … Looking back … I was such a poser, but I loved punk rock (not punk rawk).
The tense expressions of music, politics and art were appealing to me at that age, especially the music and the art … specifically the tattoos that draped over my favorite band members. Sometimes during class I would decorate my forearm with sharpie drawn amateur tattoo and purposely walk with my arm just a little turned out to show it off … Tattoos fascinated me.
My gracious parents were a little reluctant after I told them I was going to be doing some flash art pieces for a tattoo shop up the road … I found myself drawing sacred hearts of different styles, sailor style banners with scripture’s like “Philippians 1:21” and even old school rockabilly sparrows …
Needless to say, I wanted a few tattoos …
Although, this interest in punk music and tattoos, didn’t really go over well with the pastor of the church I was attending. He took me aside before service one day to tell me “the way you dress and you’re interests need to change. You’re showing disrespect for God and participating in things that are not Christ-like – read Leviticus 19:28” … I didn’t know what to say … he was the pastor … he knows God better than I do, heck I just started walking down that road.
I found myself rattled and insecure.
Almost 15 years later, I can look back and see that even though his intention of transformation was there, his reasoning of the Levitical Law
Leviticus 19:28 say (according to the ESV) “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord”
As a 21st century western cultured Christian looking at this verse … “cut your body for the dead” is a bit foreign to me, but “tattoo” … I know what that is! The only downfall to that is a cultural difference in understanding.
Quickly looking at the first part of the verse “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead”. This mandate to the Israelites was to warn them against pagan practices (all of Lev. 19 is just that) … Take the Amorites, they would cut themselves when someone passed in their community. Even for a king they would shave the hair around their ear and cut off a part, make various cut on the arms, mark the forehead and nose, and cut arrow patterns into their left hand. There is also some speculation that the tattoos were burns, charred markings. THESE were a pagan practices God did not want the Israelites to participate in … Regardless of the ancient practice of the rituals themselves, it was more the worship (positioning of the heart) that was weaved with the practices that God deemed idolatry. This “law” was then fulfilled in Christ and we are no longer held to Levitacal restraints.
… Moving on …
Much like the pastor that confronted me about my dress and interests, Paul encountered similar dichotomies in the Church of Rome … but with meat (kinda)
Rome was a little bit like the modern day United States. A melting pot of cultures and commerce, pagan/Christian practices.
The new, young church had an inner struggle. In the pagan temples the meat that was burned up for the sacrifices was given away. Some Christians believed it was wrong to eat the meat and abstained from eating it as to keep themselves “clean”, while the remaining Christians thought nothing more than “FREE MEAT!” and ate it.
Paul, aware of this inward feud, confronts both views in this manner;
Romans 14:6-8 ” Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God, and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. … If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord”
It’s about the believers conscience … as Paul continues in Romans 14:22-23 “Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith and everything that does not come from faith is sin”
Lamens terms – If you’re convicted by it, stand by your conviction and don’t hold (judge) others to YOUR personal conviction.
Alright wrap up time … There is a large misunderstanding of application toward the Levitical Laws in today’s modern world. I mean how do we rationalize the applicable qualities of Leviticus 19:28 and not 19:26 (You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it – there goes my steak dinner) or 19:27 (You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard – of course we know beards are epic) …
It comes down to an eisegetical notion being assumed from generation to generation. The same type of notion Paul encounters in Rome and also in Corinth – but Paul’s invocation was that despite their opposite view points, don’t point fingers and regard yourself as more righteous … but realize that in this one body (the Church) there are many parts and each one does what does for the glory of God … It was co-existing in spite of varying convictions and regarding community and brotherhood as the bigger picture.
I have tattoos – but I don’t go to work in sleeveless shirts to show off my decorations. I’m aware that there are those who don’t think tattoos are Godly, and I respect that … So I cover up.
But for me, tattoos are like “painting the walls of the temple” (1 Cor 6:19)
I have a quarter sleeve piece on my left upper arm now, of Paul (Saul) on the road to Damascus, prepping to finish with David, mourning with his lyre and a future ¾ sleeve on my right arm Space/Earth/Ocean floor. These 3 pieces aren’t to glorify my appreciation for tattoos … but to echo “No matter who I am (Saul becoming Paul), No matter what I do (David mourning), No matter where I am (Space to ocean floor) … God is faithful to save, forgive and be near.
I have tattoos, and I have tattoos for the glory of God.
Until Next Time,