What does the Bible say about tattoos? And should Christians see tattoos as a red flag that God does not want them to date someone?
Here are 4 points to consider.
1. Decide What You Believe the Bible Says About Tattoos
The reason I’m emphasizing the phrase “decide what you believe” is because people interpret the relevant Bible passages differently regarding tattoos.
There’s no direct command in the New Testament prohibiting tattoos. The most relevant verse in the Old Testament is Leviticus 19:28. Here’s what GotQuestions.org said in regard to this verse about tattoos:
‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD’ (Leviticus 19:28). The reason for the prohibition of tattoos in this passage is not stated, but it is likely that tattooing was a pagan practice connected with idolatry and superstition. It was probably common for the pagans to mark their skin with the name of a false god or with a symbol honoring some idol. God demanded that His children be different. As He reminded them in the same verse, “I am the LORD.” The Israelites belonged to Him; they were His workmanship, and they should not bear the name of a false god on their bodies. While New Testament believers are not under the Mosaic Law, we can take from this command the principle that, if a Christian chooses to get a tattoo, it should never be for superstitious reasons or to promote worldly philosophy. The bottom line is that getting a tattoo is not a sin, per se. It is a matter of Christian freedom and should be guided by biblical principles and rooted in love.”
2. Decide What This Person’s Tattoos Says About Them
If you want my general assessment about what the Bible says in regards to tattoos, I don’t believe it outright forbids it but there are many principles that people should consider when deciding if a tattoo is right for them. For example:
- The Bible consistently points to the importance of having healthy motives behind every action (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17, 1 Samuel 16:7). The decision to get a tattoo, therefore, should be done with a pure motive.
- The Bible states our motives and actions should be rooted in a desire to honor the Lord with our bodies as we reject conformity to the world and seek to be renewed in Christ, thus getting a tattoo should be done under this principle (Romans 12:1-2).
- A tattoo should not be pursued for the purpose of getting social status (Galatians 1:10), to make oneself look better by worldly standards (1 Peter 3:3-4), or to fit in with the world (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17).
With that said, we are not able judge people’s motives as only God can do that accurately. Rather, we are to observe people’s actions and assess them accordingly (Matthew 7:17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13), since what we do flows from the heart. Therefore, when it comes to other people’s tattoos, the tattoo itself should bear more weight than the mere fact that they have one.
In other words, all tattoos are not created equal. What do the words in the tattoo say? Is the tattoo expressing a new age belief? Is the tattoo an inappropriate image that dishonors Christ? What does this tattoo say about the person who has this tattoo?
If you like someone and you aren’t sure what their tattoo is meant to say about them, just ask, “Hey, what does your tattoo mean to you? What led you to get it?”
3. If the Tattoos Are from a Previous Season of Life, Assess the Person for Who They Are Now
Some people get tattoos and love them for life. Other people regret their tattoos.
If someone has a distasteful tattoo or even one that is outright sinful because it dishonors Christ in some way, but they have since repented of that past season of life, I believe the best course of action is to see beyond this tattoo and accept this person for who God has made them now by his grace rather than judging them forever by their past.
All Christians were once dead in their trespasses before becoming alive by the mercy of God (Ephesians 2:1-5).
4. Make the Decision that You Feel Led to Make in Faith
For me personally, I don’t see tattoos as a red flag at all. I’m personally more interested in assessing someone’s character, beliefs, and current values than the ink on their body. But each person needs to make their own decision about this topic in faith. For anything not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
I would encourage everyone to read through Romans 14 in its entirety to see the heart Paul tells us all to have about debatable matters. For the sake of time, here’s a few verses from Romans 14 that I find especially relevant to this discussion about tattoos and relationships:
- Romans 14:4, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
- Romans 14:22-23, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.