Before addressing the question, “To Tat or Not to Tat,” let’s step back to the early 19th century when a very different kind of tatting was popular. Tatting was the name of a fiber art in which lacy designs were created using thread and a shuttle. Tatted lace was most often created with very fine thread, making the work quite time consuming and the lace very delicate. Subsequently, most tatted laces were created as decorative trim, small home decor items or jewelry. The art of tatting diminished in popularity during the first half of the 20th century, when machine-made lace improved in quality and was both time and cost effective to produce.
Okay…that’s the trivia about tatting in years gone by. Today the words tat, tatting and tatted are almost exclusively used to refer to body art. So the question we are addressing, “to tat or not to tat,” is about making a permanent mark on one’s body.
To Tat or not to Tat? That’s not the only question.
Tattoos are a very popular and controversial subject among Christians, and I’ve written about the subject in three articles: Is my TATTOO a sin? Is a tattoo a poor testimony? and Is the “mark of the beast” a tattoo? I’ve addressed the importance of making well-informed, thoughtfully-considered, and prayerfully-discerned decisions about getting a tattoo.
I do not have a tattoo, and perhaps many of you are tattoo-less also, but I venture to say that we all know and love someone who has a tattoo…or tattoos. Therefore this subject is important. Whether or not we personally like tattoos, we must remember that getting a tattoo is not a sin. The Old Testament prohibition about making marks on one’s body is not addressing modern-day tattoos. Now don’t hear me wrong. While the levitical law about tattoos does not apply to us, there is a principle for us in the prohibition that God gave to the nation of Israel– and it should be considered before getting a tattoo (read Is my TATTOO a sin?). And, while getting a tattoo might not be a sin, the motive for getting a tattoo, the image of the tattoo and/or what the tattoo might “say” to others could be sinful.
A discussion of whether a tattoo is sinful, or a justification for getting a tattoo, is not the purpose of this article. The purpose of this article is to answer another question. As Christians, how should we respond to people who have tattoos?
If a Tattoo Could Talk…
After the article Is my TATTOO a sin? was posted, I asked readers to send pictures of their God-honoring tattoos and to share their reasons for getting the tattoo and the meaning of the art. I was flooded with pictures and selected some to share with you.
Before sharing the testimonies let me be clear, I am not a fan of tattoos. I just can’t get past the idea that a tattoo is permanent. While many tattoos are Christian symbols, there are also Christian symbols on bracelets, necklaces, T-shirts, etc. Those items can represent one’s faith….and they are not permanent. I certainly understand that not all Christians feel the same way I do and that there are many faithful Christians with tattoos. This should not be a divisive issue among Christians. God clearly states that discord among the brethren is an abomination to Him (Proverbs 6:16, 19).
Along with pictures of tattoos and testimonies about the tattoos, I also received many interesting comments. Some accused me of endorsing tattoos in the article (which I do not), others thanked me for treating the subject fairly. My favorite comment was: “Tattoos are skin deep, sin is soul deep.”
I share these images, from Christians with tattoos, so all of us (the tattooed and the tattoo-less) can better understand one another. Remember, Jesus said that people will know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:35). And the Bible tells us that we are to love all people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. So whether or not we approve of tattoos, we should remember to always respond in love and with kindness.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
If you did not read the article about tattoos, please do so here. There is much to consider about getting a tattoo and in the article I specifically remind youth that they are to submit to their parent’s authority in this matter. To do otherwise is definitely a sin.
1. I got my wrist tattoo as a way to share my faith with others & also to remind myself daily what God has done for me & what He means to me. The Christian fish represents my belief in Christianity, the word faith is my faith in God & the red heart represents the blood of Christ who died for me, and to whom I gave my heart.
2. You asked for our tattoos that we feel are meaningful and positive of the Christian faith… here is a picture of mine. The story behind it is simple. When I was in Iraq we had a particularly bad day (as compared to the average bad day). While I will not bore anyone with “war stories”..I will say this, THAT Psalm kept repeating in my head and on my lips and in my heart while things were getting kind of scary. And when I made it home I got this tattoo, as an honor to what I believe, and in my own way, thanking God for bringing home to my wife and children. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
3. Daily reminder to follow God’s word even when I don’t know where it will take me!
4. I grew up in a large family, and my dad was a pastor. As a child, we had curtains that looked like prison bars over one of our windows. We would often pray for missionaries/Christians in other countries who had been imprisoned, and when someone was released, my mom would open the curtains and we would celebrate. We would often times pray for the country of Albania and the Christians in that country-at that time, Albania was an atheist nation. I think my parents felt drawn to pray for those there. Fast forward to my adult years. My parents became missionaries to that same country-Albania. Albania was no longer declared atheist by its government, and missionaries were allowed. Throughout my life and even in Albania, my mom has always asked, “Have you heard the good news?” Her answer in Albanian, “Jezusi të do.” Or Jesus loves you. That Albanian answer is my tattoo. It starts conversations and points to my Savior and my good news.
5. My one and only tattoo is this tiny cross signifying if I remarry it will be a promise between three, not just two.
6. I prayed and asked for guidance before getting my tattoo. I had been considering a cross for some time when my pastor spoke in a message about the word Tetelestai. It’s one of the last, if not THE last words Jesus said on the cross. It’s Greek and is translated as Paid In Full. When I learned that, I knew exactly what I wanted. I know I don’t have to mark my body to know what Christ did for me, but I do love having a constant reminder of HOW He paid my debt in full. It has often been a witnessing tool, including to the tattoo artist!
1.Thanks for your scripture-based insights. Here’s my God-honoring tattoo. One, I wanted a non-traditional depiction of the Lion of Judah, and I think the artist exceeded my expectations. Two, it was a cover-up tattoo of Homer Simpson, of which I received the day I turned 18. I’ll refrain from posting it since it wouldn’t honor God and I wish not to dwell on mistakes of the past.
2. I got this tattoo on my forearm about a month before my first husband passed away in 2009. He had prostate cancer and was fighting for his life. This tattoo means To God Alone the Glory, he wanted to get one too but the artist said he thought it wasn’t a good idea at that time. We didn’t know he would go Home so shortly afterwards. It has been a witness tool, not only about God but the reason behind it gives opportunity to talk about the struggle we had and how it was only Christ who got us through the journey.
3. This tattoo on my right forearm is the lyrics to a gospel song. They read, A thousand times I’ve failed, still Your mercy remains. I’ve had dozens of people comment or ask what it means and I am then allowed an opportunity to share the gospel for as long as they will let me. It’s something simple but reminds me that God always loves me, but not my sin, and I should turn away from my sin and toward Him. It has been a great witnessing tool.
4. Hubby and I got matching intertwined Christian fish under our wedding rings. You can’t even see them when our wedding rings are on. They are strictly for us, to remind us that our vows are vows between each other and God, and our marriage is a bond between each other and God.
5. Hi there! I attached a pic of my tattoo. It’s on the inside of my right wrist and it is the Roman numeral three. I got this tattoo because of Step 3 of AA, the I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. This was the step that turned my life around. I put it on my right wrist so that people will see it when I reach out and shake their hand. I want people to ask me about it, because it gives me the opportunity to share the great mercy of God in my life and to share my passion for Jesus and the redemption available to us all! People have a hard time believing I was once a homeless, hopeless drug addict.
6. My tattoo is about the Rapture. 1 Corinthians 15:52. The twinkle in the eye is also the world. The twinkle itself can be seen as a cross or a bright star, like the star of Bethlehem. Also notice no hands on the clock, as no one knows the hour of Christ’s return to earth.
1. My son was born with a birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. 50% of the children die who are born with it. We were one of the lucky one. The cross represents my faith in God who gave me strength to get through the tough times (my son had 14 surgeries before he was 2), the ribbon is the symbol for the organization we belong to for CDH, CHERUBS, and the stargazer lily represents innocence, and optimism (hope) for which we prayed for daily. My son just graduated high school this year, we are very blessed.
2. The purpose of my tattoos is to start conversations in which I can share the gospel… and they do this all the time. I’ve never regretted getting them.
3. My tattoo reminds me everyday that God loves me and Jesus died to redeem me. The 3 flowers represent the awesome, amazing, triune God I serve. I had it placed on my right forearm to remind me that one day I will be seated at the right hand of God with Jesus and so that it could be a visible conversation starter. Some people ask what it means, others shake their head as if to say “silly disillusioned woman” but no one doubts who I belong to. The memory of the discomfort of having it done is also a reminder to me that Jesus suffered much pain for my sake.
4. I have struggled for 25 years with self injury. I have also struggled with occasional suicidal thoughts. The song “Jesus Loves Me” has saved my life more than once. I seem to hear it at the exact time that I need to be reminded that God loves me and has a purpose for me still being here. I got this tattoo last year for 2 reasons: 1) to cover up some of the more obvious scars I have inflicted on my body, and 2) to have a permanent reminder that even when I feel like giving up, I am loved and valuable because I belong to God.
5. There is always hope in Jesus! I got this after giving my testimony for the very first time and realizing the theme was Hope. I want to use it as a conversation starter and also as a reminder to myself of what God can do.
6. My tattoo reads: Psalm 27:10 (with 5 small flowers below) I prayed upon this tattoo content for 10 years before getting it. And now have had it for over 16 years, so it is blurred and hard to read. But that is the beauty of how it IS my God Honoring tattoo. You see, Psalm 27:10 is the very scripture that brought me to the Lord. And the fact that as the ink has aged and blurred, many people ask me what it says. And I know that those moments are God Breathed. Moments He presents, for me to share my testimony, and share His love. Opportunities to plant those seeds of faith into others hearts that I may not have had otherwise.
1. From my favorite hymn. When I struggle in my walk, this verse brings me back to Him.
2. I am a Christian and also a director of Children’s ministry. I get excited when someone asks me the meaning of my tattoo because it gives me the opportunity to share something very close to my heart. In May 2013, my husband and I got wonderful news that we were finally expecting! After 2 years of infertility, we were overjoyed. Only to face devastating news by July that we had lost the baby. I suffered from very bad depression for a long time, not understanding God’s plan in all this. My faith wavered and faltered and I felt like I was falling short in so many ways. Come to Feb 2015… My husband and I are still dealing with infertility but are realizing God’s plan in our lives. Seeing how He is working all things for the good of those who love God. We still struggle in understanding this… But are fully relying on God and trusting His plan. So, the tattoo for me serves as a reminder for 3 things:
- As a reminder of a beloved child we so desperately prayed for and were blessed to have , if only for a short time. While we didn’t get to hold the baby in our arms, it will FOREVER be in our hearts and we will one day meet them in eternity.
- As a reminder that GOD’S LOVE NEVER ENDS. He continues to love us, even when our faith falters and we stumble and fall. His love is unfailing and will always be there.
- As a reminder of my husband’s promise to love me… Through good AND bad times. We will be married 4 years this Nov 11th and have faced a lot of trials in that short time. Trials that were designed to tear us apart or break us down. But we have come out stronger than before, more united and more in love… Knowing that no matter what, we CHOSE to love one another for ETERNITY.
So when someone asks about my tattoo, I get to relive the joy, while brief, of my baby and remind others of the infinite love of our Father.
3. I decided to get a tattoo after a very long time of really thinking about what I wanted and why I wanted it. Was I thinking I wanted one because it was the popular thing to do, or did I feel in my heart a personal reason? Many years ago after I had my son I suffered from severe postpartum depression. The joy was gone from my life and I felt empty. I did receive medical help but that took time and I knew I had to wait until the medication took effect. I prayed constantly to God to help me through this very difficult time and I promised Him I would help anyone else that he put in my path to find their joy. He has promised me as well, great joy in the coming of Christ and I rejoice at the thought of spending eternity with Him. So my tattoo has a double meaning to me; that God helped me find my joy again after depression and that Jesus Christ is coming again to raise us up and give us joyful salvation.
4. The meaning of my tattoo is this: the infinity symbol is a mathematical symbol meaning “never ending”, I also have my husband’s name, our wedding date, and the first initials of our children. My tattoo is a celebration of my marriage. I wanted something more than a ring, even though my wedding ring is very important to me, I wanted something permanent, something that will stay with me always an outward symbol of my love for my family. I feel that my tattoo does honor God because it honors my calling in life to be a wife and Mother.
5. EPHESIANS 1:7 In him we have redemptionthrough his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
6. I’ve attached a picture of my tattoo that I got on 12/31/13, with my daughter (hers is the same only smaller). It was my first, and only tattoo; my daughter has several. I’ve been a Southern Baptist all of my life. For 35+ years, I was the pianist at my church, “quitting” only when I moved across the country for my husband’s job. Lots of people don’t understand WHY I would “do something like that”. It was a bonding thing for my daughter and I. And it signifies my immense involvement in music, church music specifically. It is not a tattoo that could cause someone to stumble. In fact, I would hope that it might help to change people’s opinion of tattoos should they ask me about it.
7. I am a believer in and follower of Christ since age 5, 57 yr. old wife of one man, mother of 4, grandmother of 8. My tattoo is about 3 months old now.
The curly cues represent my life; “life is but a vapor”. Just above my wedding band is a cross, Christ is the foundation and basis of my life. The breast cancer ribbon is indicative of what I’ve been going through this past 18 months. If you look closely, you will see some musical notes; Christ has placed a new song in my heart. At the top of the curly cue vapors along my wrist, you can see a butterfly with a pink ribbon as its body; He (Christ) has caused me to rise above the circumstances of cancer and given me hope and encouragement.
8. This testimony is longer, but well worth the time to read it.
After years of infertility, my husband and I were elated to discover we were pregnant. We had adopted twins through foster care and were eager to start our family. The pregnancy seemed to be going perfectly, so at 22 weeks, my husband and I finally allowed ourselves to begin picking out a crib. Sadly, the next day I would end up in the hospital fighting for my son’s life.
I was at work and felt a foot kicking me in the birth canal. I made it to the doctor who froze after the
examination and ordered me straight to the hospital. It turned out I was born with a condition called “Incompetent Cervix” where the cervix is weak and dilates under the weight of the baby, without warning or painful contractions. By the time I was examined, I was dilated to 6 and fully effaced. There was nothing the doctors could do.
I was told that he would be born within 24 hours and that the hospital would not attempt to save him unless I was 23 weeks. They said I should let them induce to speed up the process. I refused stating that I would not remove my son’s life from God’s hands, nor take away any chance God had to perform a miracle.
At first, it seemed as though God would intervene as I made it 24, then 48, and so on, however, after being on complete hospital bed rest, I had a placental abruption a week later and my son was born immediately after.
The hospital still would not intervene no matter how much I begged and, in the end, my husband and I were given our tiny son to hold until he passed away 2 hours later. All I have left of my son can fit into one tiny box. In the span of about a week I went from picking out cribs, to selecting a casket. I was 26 years old.
I got the tattoo for two reasons. The first one is that I needed something permanent that physically linked me to my son. I live in Kansas and was all too aware that a tornado could take that tiny box of memories away in a minute. This tattoo is an exact copy of his footprints from the hospital records. My husband has a matching tattoo as well.
The second reason is that I am staunchly pro-life. I was before our loss, but it became even more profound after I held a tiny 23 week old, perfectly formed infant and realized that people can still deny that it is a real baby and have abortions even at that same gestational age. When discussing the topic of abortion, many people have been shocked to see his footprints and marvel at their size and perfection. I think it has made many people rethink their stance on at least late term abortions.
This is my tattoo. This is my story.
Follow up: I gave birth to a healthy set of twins less than a year later against overwhelming odds. They are now 6. They would not have made it if we had not discovered my condition with their brother. Even though it was a very difficult pregnancy and required surgery and 6 months of bedrest, they were early, but healthy. The chances of carrying them as long as I did were very small. We have to smile when we think about the fact that we now had two sets of twins, both boy/girl. I think God has a sense of humor and I would not trade it for the world.
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The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2020
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
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- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM? Psalm 22
- Is my TATTOO a sin?
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