As a teacher at a Christian school, the issues of body modification (tattoos and various piercings) come up occasionally. This past year, I was honored to be the advisor for a senior who wrote her senior thesis defending the practice of Christians getting tattoos. I appreciated her obedience to her parents. They had told her she had to wait until college before getting a tattoo, and she was honoring their wishes. Too often, tattoos and piercings are simply a way for a teen to rebel against their parents, their church, or whatever. But, I don’t think rebellion has been a motive for any of the students I’ve talked to.
One of the main arguments I’ve heard from more than one student is the “testimony argument.” What if they get a tattoo of a cross, or a Bible reference? That would open doors to sharing the Gospel, right? (One of the most ingenious arguments for guys getting ear-piercings came from a student who argued that it could be seen as a sign of slavery to Christ, since ear-piercing was a sign of permanent slavery in the Old Testament. If that student ever leads anyone to Christ because of his earrings, I’ll buy him a pair of earrings! 🙂
I love the earnest desire of these students to find a Biblical reason for their actions. But … I also want to say that witnessing can’t depend on a tattoo, an earring, or a cool Christian T-shirt. I think that if someone isn’t witnessing without a tattoo, then they probably won’t be witnessing with a tattoo. Christ said they would know us by our love (Jn. 13:35), not by the ink on our skins or the holes in our ears.
This also applies to wearing crosses, something which I’ve been known to do. But, I need to remind myself that my actions speak much louder than any decoration or outfit I wear. Anyone can wear a cross–it’s a lot harder to actually carry one (Lk. 9:23).