Ethics: Get a Tattoo to Better Share the Gospel?

What would you do Wednesday!

Today’s scenario involves a Christian friend who is thinking of getting a tattoo to help them better relate to unbelievers and share the gospel.

A friend comes to you Sunday morning before worship service starts. Your friend has been doing local prison ministry lately. After visiting the prison and spending time with some of the prisoners all day Saturday, your friend gets an idea.

‘Maybe I should get a tattoo to help me relate to the prisoners so they might be more open to listening to me to help me better share the gospel?’

Your friend noticed the many tattoos on most of the prisoners and noticed some of the prisoners sort of looking them over – checking them out. Your friend felt so distant when trying to relate to the prisoners so the tattoo idea materialized.

So, your friend explains the tattoo idea and asks your advice.

What would you tell your friend? Would your answer differ if your friend were male or female?

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tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adam G in NC July 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Only if he gets it on his face

2 Missourimule July 31, 2013 at 11:12 pm

And if your friend were ministering to alcoholics on the streets and in the local bars . . . . . . ?

3 Even If Ministries August 1, 2013 at 12:23 am

Been awhile since I weighed in on one of your ethics questions . . . throughout the text, there is a recurring warning:  Don’t do ____________ like the pagans do.  The pagans tattooed their dead as part of worship of other Gods and some still do . . .
Leviticus 19:28 (CJB)
28  Don’t
cut gashes in your flesh when someone dies or tattoo yourselves; I am Adonai.
Leviticus 19:28 (NASB)
 ~’You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make
any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.
7369. ‏קַעֲקַע‎ qaʿăqaʿ noun  tattoo
Most likely derived from either an unattested root qw’ or an unused root q”, qaʿăqaʿ refers to a “tattoo.” This meaning is supported by a Middle Hebrew cognate that means “to tattoo,” “to destroy.” prohibits Israelites from putting tattoos on their bodies.

Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “7369,” in The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Pe-Resh, (Springfield, IL: World Library Press, Inc., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “7369”.

2046 ‏קעקע‎ (q‘qʿ). Assumed root of the following.
2046a ‏קַעֲקַע‎ (qa‘ăqaʿ) incision, tattoo (
R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Waltke, ed., “2046: ‏קעקע‎,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “2046: ‏קעקע‎”.
I like to over exaggerate to make a point because it unblurrs the lines – if the above command from Adonai can be ignored or rationalized:
Let me ask this:  What if you are witnessing to prostitutes – do you have sex so that they are more willing to listen to what you have to say?
We are not called to be LIKE the world, we are called to be an example – to be set apart – to reflect the goodness of the Creator:  HIS values, not ours – His commands – His son . . .
I will stop here to keep the post short . . .

4 Zack Stepp August 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

MissourimuleI’m curious: Are you saying that alcoholism and getting a tattoo are moral equivalents? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth; I’m honestly trying to understand the point you’re trying to make.

5 Mark Lamprecht August 1, 2013 at 10:38 am

@Adam G in NC Thanks funny. Not too helpful, but funny.

6 Mark Lamprecht August 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

Zack Stepp Missourimule Zack, I was thinking the same. There are stories where someone drinking a glass of wine or having a beer has opened doors for others to listen. But an alcoholic is not the same as one who is just having a beer. An alcoholic is one who is controlled by the alcohol, therefore it would be sinful for a Christian to encourage that behavior.
So, how would that relate to getting a tattoo?

7 David Wagner August 2, 2013 at 9:39 am

I see no issue him getting a tattoo. I believe that tattoos are more socially acceptable now than they have ever been and if it opens doors that could not be opened any other way, then I say get one. I also think that when you do get a tattoo that is a symbol of the gospel, then it forces you to share the gospel even when you do not “feel like it”. So in short, it will force him to share the gospel and he will not have any excuse to not to. The classic share the gospel not wear the gospel does not set well with the generation of today.

8 Even If Ministries August 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

@David Wagner Not to be unkind Dave, but Cain used much of the same logic you are using – I can come to God on my own terms, in my own way, I can ignore his commands – – -where did that get him?
Yeshua (Jesus) said, those that love me obey my Father’s commands . . .
What does He imply by this statement to those that don’t?
As far as the generation today, we were told what would happen – – –  
2 Timothy 4:3 (CJB)

3  For the
time is coming when people will not have patience for sound teaching,
but will
cater to their passions
and gather around themselves teachers who say whatever
their ears itch to hear.
More to the point, whether you mean to or not, you are saying that the gospel in its unedited form is unpalatable and needs some revision before people will buy into it or accept it – – my brother, THAT GOSPEL is a different gospel – – – it is the one talked about in Timothy above . . .
Be blessed . . .

9 David Wagner August 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Even If MinistriesI am not a pugnacious man, so I will end our conversation with this. A tattoo does not change the gospel.

10 KendellCook August 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I would argue twofold, first, while I see no issue with the tattoo itself, the content of it must be God Honoring. Second, I would also submit that a tattoo for this kind of purpose should preach the gospel to YOU the receiver on a regular basis.
Simply Put, I don’t need a tattoo to talk to someone in prison, as the scriptures are sufficient for all I need (2 tim 3:16ff ) for Life. 
That said, I see no reason for not engaging in artistic expression on one’s body.

11 Michael A. Coughlin July 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

A few thoughts:

1. This presupposes that getting a tattoo in the first place is not sin. If tattooing is, indeed, sin, then the answer is no, right?
2. If getting a tattoo is not sin, then what’s the difference? Your friend should be allowed to get a tattoo for whatever reason, it would seem.

So the question is, does the motivation for getting a tattoo affect whether or not it is sinful? That is, if I am getting a tattoo in order to relate to a people group in order to reach them with the gospel, is that somehow different from if I “just wanted a tattoo?”

And does the content matter in that case? Would an overtly Christian tattoo (if there is such a thing) somehow attract and make prison inmates excited to talk to me when they otherwise found me uninteresting? I would tend to doubt it. So then the question is, what type of tattoo would I get which would be cool and attractive enough to nonChristian prison inmates that it would get me in the in-crowd. I don’t know…but this is starting to seem “not like a good idea,” at least hypothetically.

Now, in Acts around chapters 20-21, Paul shaved his head and took a vow and did some things in order to be pleasing to a group he was trying to reach. I don’t entirely understand how that applies (maybe Mark can help), but it does seem there may be room for us within the area of Christian liberty to do things to enable us to reach certain groups – not to sweeten or change the gospel or make it more palatable – but maybe just to give us a chance to proclaim it to a group who otherwise wouldn’t have even heard us.


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