Thursday, June 15, 2017

Is It a Sin for Christians to Get a Tattoo?

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” –Romans 10:4

With about 20% of our culture having tattoos, I often get this question. While some Christians say yes and others say no, the only thing that matters is what the Word of God says. Only one verse in all of the scripture could be taken out of context to teach that tattoos are wrong and that is Leviticus 19:28 (NIV) which reads, “You shall not make any cuts in your [a]body for the [b]dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” It should be noted that the King James will not have the word Tattoo because the word did not exist in English until the 1700’s. Let me explain why this verse may have been fulfilled in Jesus’ coming and the cross.

For centuries now, theologians and church historians have understood the over 600 laws in the first five books of the Old Testament (OT) as fitting into one of three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. Ancient Israel was governed under a theocracy, in other words, God was their king. So some of the OT laws applied only to that structure. The church is spread out among many different governments. The ceremonial laws were laws given to instruct God’s people on how they should approach Him before the Cross and how they should look different than their pagan neighbors. The OT was about God’s people being a pure nation. So laws that forbid: wear clothing with two kinds of thread (Lev. 19:22), don’t trim your beard (Lev. 19:22), and don’t get any kind of piercings including ear piercings (Lev. 19:28). I have not found a church yet that didn’t break these laws, so I believe that Lev. 19:28 has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and we are no longer under these laws. Also, it appears their pagan neighbors would carve themselves as a sign of grief or get tattoos of a pagan God. Think of them like you would High School requirements, once you have shown up for all the classes, read the required materials, and passed the exams you are no longer required to do them. In the same way, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws of the OT. Finally, the moral laws are those that carried over from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Examples of these would be the Ten Commandments. While flexibility was grated on the issue of when the Sabbath should be, the principle remains for God’s people in the new covenant to take a Sabbath rest.

In conclusion, no it is not a sin to get a tattoo. In Rev. 19:16, Jesus has writing on his thigh could this be a tattoo? It could be. Let’s not be quick to judge the outside of others, when we know that it is the inside that counts in God’s kingdom (Matthew 23:27). None of us should take a verse out of context to use as a hammer against our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why are We Slow to Forgive Others?

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,”
–Matthew 6:14

In the passage above, Jesus gives a command and a warning. Christians must forgive, but countless individuals struggle to do so. A 1988 Gallup poll on forgiveness found that 94% of respondents indicated it is important to forgive, but only 48% said they make it a practice to forgive. Why doesn’t the 46% forgive?

I think there are several reasons why we don’t want to forgive and here they are:

1.    We enjoy being a wounded victim. Like an ill child fretted over, we like to milk the attention and pity of others for all that it is worth. You will be hard pressed to find the phrases “I’m so hurt” or “I’m so wronged” on the lips of Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, or the patriarchs.

2.    We enjoy anger and hatred. The reality is that many of us lead boring and uneventful lives. Perhaps C.S. Lewis captured it best in the Screwtape Letters when the demon convinced a man to do nothing he realized it and said, “I now see that I spent most my life doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” The feeling of anger and hatred at least cause us to feel, so we nurse grievances, keep bitterness stirred up, and resentment remains.

3.    We make non-repentance of the offender an excuse. It may be true that the one who offends you has not repented, but what prevents you from adopting an attitude of forgiveness? I believe that the hardest part of forgiveness is preparing our hearts to forgive another. An attitude of forgiveness must be in place to make the transaction of forgiveness. We must do the hard work of preparing our heart for forgiveness so that if repentance happens, we can forgive them fully reconciling the relationship.

4.    We fear the abuse of forgiveness. Steaming from the fear of being used or abused, we fear that adopting this attitude and command will make us a doormat. The Bible commands us to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Do you do that or do you love and pray for them?

5.    We think little and infrequently about the magnitude of our forgiveness. Perhaps a common reason that drives the other four, we don’t reflect on the immense debt of sin before God. If we were to sin only three times a day for a year that would be about 1,000 sins a year. And if the Lord blessed us with 70 years of life, we would face the judgment seat of God with 70,000 sins demanding payment. Praise God that Jesus made the great exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21) of our sin debt for His righteousness! When we realize what a debt Jesus took from us, our petty differences between one another become small potatoes.