When I was 18 years old me and my buddies were in a restaurant in Minneapolis that got a visit by the outlaw bikers gang Satan’s Choice.  I was physically ejected from the men’s room by a grizzly biker named Spike.  I guess he didn’t like me staring in pale face shock as his “motorcycle momma”, who came in with him, mounted the sink and relieved herself.  Aside from being scared half to death at the time, I will never forget the dotted line tattooed across his neck.  It read, “Cut on dotted line”.  I remember deciding at the time that a person’s IQ might be able to be measured as an inverse proportion to their number of tattoos.  I am quite sure that since then Spike probably died a gruesome death when some rival biker took the invitation too seriously.  It is not hard to see the tattoo functioning as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am aware that on the subject of tattoos I may get seriously flamed here.  51% of young people now sport a tattoo and the trend has gotten so out of hand that some have guarranteed that the only job they will ever get is as a model for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. 

Even my generation has warmed to the trend and many are getting the requisite ‘tat’ to keep up with the times.  “All done sir, and your rolls of fat give the flag a realistic wavy look.” 

My big concern is the way Christian youths are getting into the act like their very salvation depends on it. 

Though I have never come right out and criticized the fad, most of the young people in our church have got the drift that I am not a big fan.  Several have challenged me and said, “Prove to me from scripture where it is wrong.”  If I pull out Lev. 19:28, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD,”  which seems pretty clear, they come back with, “Ya, but Pastor Mark, Lev 19:27, the very verse before it says,  “You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard.  So how come you cut your hair?  BOO-YAH!” 

Alright, let’s go there.  God gave Israel these laws having just come out of Egypt.  Egypt was a religious culture that served all kinds of pagan gods.  Two of the ways they honoured them were to make tattoos on their bodies, as well as cut their hair in a manner in which these gods were depicted.  Check out the picture below.  Their hair was shaved at the sides. 

It is the reason orthodox Jews wear the long curl of uncut hair at the sides of their heads. 

It’s quite simple, wearing a mullet is an abomination to God.  Billy Ray Cyrus is going straight to hell.

Seriously though, it was all about not identifying in any way with the pagan rituals of their day.  The hair issue is no longer relevant today as we no longer have the celestial hairstyles of the gods.  The issue of tattoos might be a different story.  A study of primitive cultures reveals that almost every single pagan religion, of any time period, and on every continent employed ritualistic tattooing as a means of honouring their pagan gods.  For example, the headhunting tribes of Polynesia sported full face tattoos that resembled their demon idols.  Most primitive cultures also used them as tribal makers to identify what clan they belonged to.  Young people today tell me that their tattoo is just a way to express their individuality.  I always like to ask them, “Well, if everybody else is doing it, aren’t you really expressing your conformity?”  

My feeling is that tattoos have become the “tribal marks” of youth culture.  A way to feel connected with the times.  They provide a sense of cultural belonging not unlike how the ‘baby boomers’ fought tooth and nail with their parents over the issue of growing their hair long in the 60’s.  The difference of course is, when the 60’s were over you could always cut your hair.  The problem with the tattoo of that ‘soaring eagle’ on you arm, is eventually it is going to look like a ‘sulking chicken’.  In an attempt to make a statement, some are sporting artwork that screams, “I am just plain stupid”.  Literally!


1 Cor 3: 16-17  says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  Our identity is not with our culture, but rooted in our God.  Our very bodies are considered His temple.  The study of scripture reveals He is actually offended when we abuse the temple in any number of ways; drugs, alcohol, overeating, sexual immorality and maybe, just maybe, the body art and piercings that have become so ubiquitous today.

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  1. Evelyn Bennett says:

    You do not need to mark your body to make yourself unique.

    When we were created in God’s image, he made us special.
    This means we already have different markings. God always knows where we are. What else is there to know.

    Tattooing one’s body is only a fad plain and simple. What happens when you are tired of the culture? It is painful and expensive to remove a tattoo. But then again, it would be a perfect reminder knowing that you are not perfect after all.

  2. Inkface says:

    So having Hillsong Rules tattooed across both buttcheeks was a bad idea? Crap! Now you tell me. Next you’ll be telling me WWJD nipple rings are bad too.Well I will not get rid of my Jesus fish tribal earlobe stretchers.No way Hose.

  3. Gord says:

    Our bodies are like a rental. When it’s time to turn it in, it will be inspected. All parts that exceed normal wear and tear like vandalism, graffiti, tar in the lungs from tobacco, etc will be judged. I’m not sure what the security deposit is but I don’t want to risk losing it.

  4. Mark Hughes says:

    Inkface and Gord
    Love the comments!

  5. Isaac says:

    I laughed so hard when you said that the mullet is an abomination to God and Billy Ray is going straight to hell! I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile.

  6. Isaac says:

    wost tattoos ever! The very worst is # 10 I hope this guy lost a bet or something.

  7. Betty says:

    Well done and very interesting, Pastor Mark!
    Where I was growing up, we did not see someone with a tattoo very often, and when we did see people with a tattoo, that was sure to be our next conversation peace, and something to chew on for a while, we thought those people would go to Hell, and it was a long time, before I could see the person behind those tattoos, I do not agree with everything people do, but through the eyes of Jesus, I now can see and love that person, because Jesus first loved them.
    Peter Y. said not to long ago,” There is no situation impossible for Jesus, do not close the door on someone that Jesus has not and He still loves”.

  8. SteveK says:

    So what happens if you have tattoos or still want to get one?
    What can you do if you already have some? It’s not like you can wash it off. I’m sure only people will look at you differently but God won’t.
    And what if you know this information (from the blog) and decide to get one anyways will God look at you differently then?

  9. Mark Hughes says:

    Hey, God is a loving and forgiving God. He loves us with or without tattoos. But he loves alcoholics and drug addicts too. When it comes to the question of getting a tattoo, we need to ask the bigger question; WHY? There is no good reason to get one, but a lot of reasons not to… so why do it?
    I know many christians who have them and though they regret getting them, they live guilt free because of the cross. Personally, if it were me, I would get them removed.

  10. Ian says:

    Well put Pastor Mark. I do have a question for you though.

    I am not allowed to wear my wedding ring at work for safety reasons. I was thinking about getting a tattoo but decided against it. Instead I got my doctor to use liquid nitrogen to put a “brand” where I wear my ring. That way when I don’t have my ring on I still have a very obvious mark in its place. What do you think of that? I guess I should have asked you this before I had it done! haha

    It was nothing tribal I just take my marriage seriously and wanted to make sure I always have a ring on my finger.

  11. Mark Hughes says:

    I would say, that is the first good reason I have heard. They also do cosmetic surgery tattooing that is amazing… for people who have have reconstructions and the like.

  12. Jay says:

    So it is a sin for one and not the other? If a tattoo is a sin than let it be a sin. For all those it ensompases. Would it not be a sin if the reasons were cosmetic? If not how does this diifer from the person who gets it for vanity reasons? Are they not one and the same. Not discounting people who are disfigured by accdents or life but can we make the distinction? Is it right for a person that got burned to cover it up, or the wife who wants to cover her stretch marks, or just a guy trying to look cooler or as the world would tell him. I think these would fall under the same categories. I do have tattoos and do regret the reasons i got them and i will have to live with them for the rest of my life or until i get the money to pay for them to be removed, but i do not see that we can justify one reason and condemn the other. If we are not to get them then there would be no difference between mine and the guy that got his to show his wedding ring in absence. Marking is marking

  13. Mark Hughes says:

    I actually never came out and said it was a sin. Although it might be. If you re-read my post you will see, that as far as I can tell, the tattoo issue has always been about WHY not WHAT. The tattooing craze today is a misguided race to identify (permanently I might add) with a fallen and confused culture. God’s prohibition to the Jews was exactly that as well. 400 years of Egyptian influence was very hard to break. He wanted his people to make permanent a covenant with Him, not the gods of Egypt. God has always forbidden the making of images (even of Him) because that is how the pagans honour their gods and is the very essence of idolatry. In the future billions will receive the ‘Mark of the Beast’. All this desensitizing to tattooing is setting up a perfect scenario for that to take place. The only ‘marking’ that God is interested in is the one on our hearts. He says, “Write His words… on the tablet of your heart”.
    A cosmetic tattoo for a burn victim has got nothing to do with why God forbid marking the body. And so yes, it is very different.

  14. Inkface says:

    I aquired my tattoos to express my inner self(and to pick up church babes).Did I say that out loud? Oh well. If tattoos are so bad, then why, when I was running from a guy whom I accidentally snagged one of his donuts with one of my 4″ earlobes. Why was I able to blend into a wall of graffiti and escape his grasp. HAH! And I got a free donut to boot. I won’t even get into how my nipple rings saved my life while mountainclimbing.

  15. Inkface says:

    Ok, even I am starting to realise tatoos are probably not the greatest idea. Jesus loves people with tatoos, but Jesus doesn’t need a tatoo to be cool and neither do we. Jesus was marked by God on the inside and He could feel God’s mark. If you think you need to get a tatoo maybe you should read your Bible a little extra that week. I think you will have a change of heart.

  16. todd says:

    I’m a businessman. My wife and I always comment on how these people will look when they get older. I think I’ll get into the tattoo removal business. These souls will inevitably desire to reverse their “mistakes”. Actually – it could be a wonderful non-profit organization.

  17. Sally says:

    I am sure that there are many people now who are regreting their decision to get tattoos and are now in the process of getting them removed a painful process so I am told.
    We had a student Pastor in our church one summer and he was busy in the process of having his tattoes removed and he said it was very painful done by lasers.
    The best emoval I heard of was done by the Grace of God who supernaturally removed tattoos from a young man who had recently come to the Lord and wanted to get rid of his occultic tattoos. He was attending a gathering of Christians where the presence of the Lord was so strong and during the praise and worship that another young lady who was also attending came up to him and said the Lord just told me that if you go to the bathroom and wash your arms all your tattoos will come of. Which of course he did and they did!
    I think that if the Lord wanted those tattoos to remain he would never have given that young lady that Word of Knowledge….just a thought!

  18. Karen says:

    The greater question is….what are all of these tattooed people going to look like when they hit the old folks home? (Let’s not go there!) I think that this method of gaining attention is sad and extreme. Just another sign of how desperately our culture needs God. I hope that this current fad (rebellion) dies out soon!
    My niece, who is a severe diabetic, has a medical alert tattoo. For whatever reason, she is unable to wear the medical alert bracelets or necklaces, and felt that this was her only option. Her tattoo has saved her life on many occasions. I wish that there could have been another option for her, but there is not.
    When we look at these tattooed people, it’s important to remember it’s where their heart is that is important, not the size of their tattoo.

  19. CL says:

    What about this vese?
    Revelation 19:16 “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

  20. CL says:

    What about this verse?
    Revelation 19:16 “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

  21. InMemory says:

    I lost my 7 yr old daughter to cancer. I am getting a tattoo to honour her life and what she taught me, & how she led me back to the Lord. For me, the tattoo will be a way of telling people about her life and a reminder for me everyday that because of her illness God is in my life and that I will see her again. The tattoo will be a sign on my heart that love is as strong in life as it is in death. I want to be reminded of that each day. I have prayed on this for a long time and feel even more drawn to doing this than the day I promised my daughter I would get one to remember her by. I will carry her memory with me forever, and sometimes what is needed is more of a concrete sign that she is still with me no matter what, in life and in death. That is my “why”.

  22. JustMe says:

    I think that the way these people will look when they are old is really between them and God – old, saggy tattoos, is neither here nor there when it comes to the actual subject & that it is not the greater question!! We need to yes – pray and help others to understand not criticize them!
    A tattoo is a tattoo – I think that Karen’s comment is contradictory!
    I choose to pray for those with and without them!
    God bless!

  23. Ashley says:

    I think this is more about opinions and less about sin. A tattoo could be a sin depending on what it is just like food is not a sin but too much of it is. I thought about the verse in Revelations while reading this blog also. I think Jesus will be more concerned with the condition of my heart rather than the color of my butterfly tattoo. I tear up thinking about my Savior coming back with King of Kings and Lord of Lords written on his thigh. I think part of why we are unable to reach some people for Christ is our legalistic opinions push them away(talking about myself only here.) I know when I got my tattoo I prayed during and after because seeing some of the tattoo choices I understand that alot of them do give way to and even honor the enemy. Anything can be mis-used (food/clothing/tattoos/piercings) If it’s being used as a form of rebellion, seduction, gluttony, idolitry, evil etc. then it’s sin. As Christians we should be aware of everything we do, but thank God for the Holy Spirit operating in us that guides us and challenges our flesh if we let him. There are a lot of old testiment scriptures that we no longer follow. PRAISE GOD! I do get your point about young people getting them because it is trendy. Their kids will think they are big dorks one day. The trend will end eventually(:

  24. Jay says:

    I agree. That last comment is where out hearts are supposed to be. I get judged constantly on my tattoos. Its almost that because it is visible it is a statement to some that i screwed up or am screwed up. Come on people, havent we all? The fact is that if it is a sin or not, it is on my body. Most sins are hidden but yet people judge on what they see right in front of them. My father absolutely hates my tattoos because her grew up with his mother being a witch, so i understand his view but he still loves me and this in no way hinders him from our relationship. This is Godly that we love one another.
    When i meet God and everything comes into the open i know that His love will cover all, and that i am made clean because of what he did for me. Tattoos or no Tattoos God loves everyone

  25. JustME says:

    Good comments Ashley and Jay!

  26. Victoria says:

    Well,well, I haven’t been able to write during this particular blog segment until recently. This subject is controversial,there is no mistake. I also have a tatoo- it started out innocently enough with a rose on my right back shoulder blade. I was 17, and wanted to show people that I was strong and could take the pain. I also went to punk rock shows (dressed in 1950’s dresses and kitten heels) and the people there, all seem to decorate their bodies to the extreme…c’mon it was the 80’s, there was ALOT of sinning going on. I remember thinking that I would choose a place to tatoo that I could easily cover up for any type of job. After a couple of years and some soul searching I decided to cover up the cheesy rose tatoo. (that I picked off the wall that a million others probably had.) So I went to a fine reputable studio in Winnipeg, called Skin Dimensions, and disussed my options of covering up the old one, with the owner. He is native and we decided to create a native tribal floral motif, with my favorite flowers from the garden. He very much feels the body is an artist palette, not a doodleing pad. So I opted to get a full back piece,which to this day, I can hide in most clothes, but it is unfinished, but well done. So I’ve told my children that Mommie made a mistake, and that they should NEVER do the same. They use fake tatoos and when they tire of them, we can take them off.
    Yes…my husband HATED the tatoo and gold tooth I sported, I agreed to remove the gold tooth, and am still waiting for someone to invent a better way to remove tatoos. In the meantime…it is a reminder of how much I need attention to sooth a broken heart from the rejection of both my parents, and how much pain I was in. It seemed to serve as a release for me to have the sessions…..until I met my husband who seemed to make sense of why I should not have done this. People who mark themselves are in pain and need to be taught the word of the gospel- those who are not marked have the job of counciling the rest of us!!
    I know God forgives me, and others who do it for whatever reason-after all, Pastor Mark,didn’t you say he is in the business of redemption?
    Hats off to another great topic!

  27. Angela says:

    I feel that quite often Mark seems to pick topics just to see how much he can shake the tree – so to speak. I think if you want more people to turn to Jesus and turn away from their less than perfect lifestyles you might want to attempt to sound at least a little tolerant. I read Mark’s blog and the first thought that came to mind was what a ridiculously closed minded opinion. Now I realize that we as people can not possess the divine acceptance that Jesus had, but does that mean we have to go to the other extreme and condemn those who don’t fit into our comfort zone. Mark, I’m sorry you encountered a bad person with tattoos as it has clearly scarred you for life. I hope that with prayer you can find a way to get past that and learn to accept people for who they are and not judge them on their physical appearance.

  28. Jennifer says:

    First I want to say I am a member of COTR. This is one topic I am truly sick of hearing. Our main objective of the Church is to win people for Jesus. I don’t care what they look like or what they have done, that is between them and Jesus. I think it is unfair to attack people with tattoos and piercing. If these people are so called sinners, why would they want to come to church so everybody can see their “sin”. It is easy for an adulterous or an addict because their “sin” isn’t visible to the eye. I also feel that this is directed at the younger generation. What about the baby boomer ladies at Church that have their ears pierced-no different from any other piercings. Are they considered sinners too? I think this subject needs to dropped and more important things need to be focused on. We must remember that we are in a different world from when Jesus walked it. The one thing that has changed in reaching people to Jesus is the method, but not the Message!

  29. Steve says:

    I agree that people with tattoos should feel welcome in church just like a homeless person should feel welcome or a Hell’s Angel for that matter. One thing I’ve learned from the Lord is He loves everybody. I don’t think that this is what Pastor Mark was trying to say though. His message to me seemed like he was directing the issue at Christians who are trying to be cool by getting tattoos.

  30. Karen says:

    Apparently someone didn’t get my lame attempt at humor. Sorry.
    Just so that we are clear….I don’t like tattoos. I question the validity of something that has its roots in pagan ritual.
    I love my niece more than I love her tattoo. I know that God loves my niece even more than I do… But maybe I didn’t make myself clear…her MEDICAL ALERT tattoo has saved her life and for that I am thankful. My stand hasn’t changed on tattoos. In real life, I don’t EVER judge someone on their tattoo. I try to look beyond the ink staining and see the person behind it first. We would all be wise to do the same.

  31. Jennifer says:

    Celebrating Christmas, December 25-that is based on a pagan celebration, the Roman Sun god’s birthday. Jesus’ true birth was in the Spring around April, experts figure.

  32. bold1now says:

    Wow, there are some good points given here. I’m anti-tattoo, agreeing that it is not what God wants us to represent. Mark, you make a spirit-led insight on why it is gaining popularity, even with those that should know better. There is no doubt in my mind that the enemy has a plan regarding it, and many will be swayed because they are already marked with tattoos, they will have no argument to use when they are asked why not! God will not judge that which we do in ignorance, only that which we do when we have knowledge of what is right and wrong.
    God said it, I believe it, that settles it!

  33. Ian says:

    I see what you are saying with “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” but…

    It dosen’t matter if you believe it or not…If God said it it’s true and that is waht settles it.

  34. Karla says:

    I can’t believe you’re actually writing about this on your blog! Seriously! WHO CARES? Every tattoo has a story – so does the one on my right leg. The process of planning for it and getting it done was one of the most spiritually significant experiences I’ve ever had. Listen to the story.

  35. Mr.Taboo says:

    Well this being a church related blog the number of anti tattoo statements and tales of regret would figure to be the majority. As someone in the body modification business I can tell you there are a lot of people out there who not only don’t regret their tattoos and piercings but actually happy with them. About the only problem they have is when someone decides to judge them for who they “think” they are because they have them. I’ve worked on wealthy and poor , blue collar and professionals , bikers , cops , teachers , laywers , nurses , housewives and many others. And Christians, Jews, Atheist , Wiccans and many others.

  36. Cecilia says:

    Lets not be so superficial. What they look like when theyre older, who cares, saggy skin, gray hair, or the loss of it is inevitable for everyone who ages. Your not going to look great regardless…. They can get their tattoos retouched of course. I think pastor is missing the point, because the truth is that our souls will be judged, in scrutiny… Nothing is as black and white as youd like it to be pastor. I must say youve got to accept each race, religion, culture fad, as it comes because you as well will be judged before god for the way you treat others. eventually after dying your body will decompose with or without tattoos regardless… I say live and let live, its the only way you can grow in relationships to very different people, and embrace happyness with all life, not just your “labeled” onesided view of how people should look.

  37. Gabriel Brown says:

    Actually what that scripture says is:

    Lev 19:28 – Don’t cut gashes in your flesh when someone dies or tattoo yourselves; I am ADONAI.

    As in, if someone dies, don’t put marks on your body out of grief or remembrance for the person. It’s not a healthy way of working through that stuff. Why would H’shem tell the people “when someone dies don’t cut yourself, and uh… By the way, no tattoos.” That’s like saying, “Don’t light this gasoline on fire, it could lead bad stuff, and uh… Don’t eat kittens either.”

    It was all meant to be taken in context and when you read it in the original wording it makes all that much more sense.

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