I read an article about whether Christians should get tattoos.
Christian tradition is that tattoos are taboo. Leviticus 19:28 is the prime text, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”
Some have said this is a no-option passage–tattoos are sin. Others tie it in with the context and say it has more to do with paganism, dealing with dead people and weird stuff.
One of the voices in the article was a pastor who said he got tattoos because he was trying to attract the punk rock crowd to his church. Punk rockers are tattooed, therefore, a pastor who wants to reach the punk rockers needs a tattoo.
My personal opinion is that tattoos are really dumb and ugly. Whether they are sin, I don’t know. Leviticus 19:28 is the only verse close to it and it is against them. I’d be disappointed if my kids got one, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
However, the thing that bugs me is how a pastor decides to get tattoos because he was changing his church to reach punk rockers.
This is a common notion in the modern church growth movement–find out what the crowd wants and give it to them. If you have to change the music; change the music. If you have to shorten the sermon; shorten the sermon.
The church has not been called to fit into punk rock culture; punk rockers are called to be in the church. They change; not the Church. I know I’m in the minority on this issue, but alas, it bugs me.
Here’s my distinction–it is fine for a person to do things to reach people (Paul’s “all things to all people,” although I doubt he’s talking about pushing the lines of sin with things like tattoos), but I don’t think the church is called to change to meet the world’s desires.
The church is light. When the light decides that the best way to attract the dark is to become dark too, we defeat our purpose.
What good does it do to get the dark to come into the dark?
My fear is that the church is more concerned with marketing itself, with finding what the crowd wants and doing that so we get their money and retain our power, than it is with obeying God’s Word.
The Old Testament was written for our learning. Here’s a great example the Church can learn from.
Most of the commands in the Law (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) are about worship, primarily what happens in the temple with priests, sacrifices, etc. If the people kept those laws, God would be with them and bless them. If they didn’t obey His commands on worship, God would forsake them and kick them out of The Land.
Solomon married a bunch of foreign women who brought their foreign gods. Solomon began worshiping their gods, contrary to God’s command to “have no other gods before me.” Due to Solomon’s unfaithfulness, the Kingdom was split in two.
Along comes Jeroboam, who fears that Israel will leave him, turn on him and kill him because they’ll go to Jerusalem (across the border) to worship. He decides he needs to keep people from going there to avoid losing his political power and life.
“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.”
In order for Jeroboam to keep himself in power, he changes worship. He ignores God’s commands about worship so he can manipulate and control the people and preserve his own rule. All these new worship ideas he “devised of his own heart.”
God’s word ceased to be his guide; his ideas took first spot.
So, Jeroboam changed up the worship, but his little ideas hung on longer than he did. Jehu became king later on and
“Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.“
Jehu follows Jeroboam’s ideas. But that wasn’t all. Jehoahaz comes along and
“he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.“
Another sheep comes along and blindly follows what the guys before him did. But he wasn’t all. Along comes another Jeroboam, Jeroboam II, and guess what he does?
“he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.“
King after king comes along and follows Jeroboam’s lead. One man’s desire to control the people and preserve his own fortunes, changes worship for years. This isn’t based on their ideas, nor on God’s Word. This new worship is based on one guy’s ideas from his twisted heart.
But that’s not the last time Jeroboam’s sin comes up. There’s one more passage, a doozy.
“For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;Until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.”
Yup, the whole nation is now walking in the sin of Jeroboam, going after his false worship ideas he invented. Unbelievable. God told them if they forsook His commands He’d kick them out of The Land. That’s what He did.
Jeroboam’s sin was to follow his own ideas, to put human desire first and God’s Word relegated to non-existence.
I fear this is the source of much of the Church’s habits. Infant baptism is a prime example.
There are no texts in the Bible about infant baptism. None. Baptizing households is the best they can come up with, and that’s a long way from the doctrine of infant baptism.
They remarkably point to circumcision to prove infant baptism, as if half the New Testament doesn’t exist. Circumcision is the constant problem in the NT. Faith is not about doing one thing one time to a kid.
Infant baptism is traced back to citizen rights in the Roman Empire. Kids born to Roman citizens went through a citizenship ceremony involving water. When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, hey, why not have the church take this one?
Soon people were baptizing babies because some guy had the bright idea that he could manipulate people and keep himself in power. God never said to baptize babies, but we have cute notions invented in some guy’s heart, so for years the church has done it.
There is no way a novice Christian who sat down and read the Bible would get up and conclude, “You know what? I think we need to throw water on babies so they can go to heaven.”
Are we as concerned with the commands of God as we are keeping the traditions of men? Is our desire to attract a crowd trumping our obedience to our God?
These are crucial questions for the church and for the individual. Do we have the guts to change when necessary? Do we have the guts to not change when required? Do we have the ability to know the difference?