The mere mention of these things may offend some people. Church leaders, when confronted with questions about the propriety of them, are betwixt a rock and a hard place. No matter what they say, somebody is going to get upset. What’s so controversial about these things?
Once we become Christians – true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ – something radical happens. The things of this world dull, darken, and disappear. We no longer seek them. We seek the things from above – about our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We seek to please Him in all things, because He is our Father, which art in heaven. We love Him, so we want to obey Him.
However, we are still in our flesh and our flesh lusts against our spirit, which breeds questions and confusion. We see others in the world that have tattoos, for example, and we love those people enough to share the gospel with them, so we ask, “Can they be so wrong? They seem like good people, and claim to be Christian, so what’s so bad about what they’re doing?” Then we go ask our pastor what he thinks. And because he’s afraid to offend us, he gives us a dodgy answer. “It’s okay for some, but not for others”, “Well, you are free in Christ”, “Let’s be careful we don’t judge anybody unfairly”.
Okay. Let’s be fair about it and “judge them that are within” righteously, which we are expected to do (1 Cor. 5:12, Jn. 7:24). What does the Bible say to us, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ?
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17).
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them” (1 Cor. 6: 12-13a).
“…we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4b).
“I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself” (Rom. 14:14a).
“As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).
I think we can all agree that, if we were to consider the relevant research regarding tattoos, piercings, and yoga, we would find a pagan origin to all of them. None of them (no, not one) originated with a godly intent. None of them glorify God, and none of them were prescribed in the Bible by God for us to do. All of them, I’m sure we can also agree, are indicative of worldly pursuits that the worldly-minded engage in because they enjoy doing the things of this world.
If they’re worldly, then why are Christians asking to do them?
Certainly it is one thing to have done them, and then to come to Christ and regret them. One man, after coming to Christ, sees the demonic Tat he got in the past and shudders at the impression it makes on his unsaved friends. A woman, having done intense yogic meditation, experienced a demonic encounter and it scared her into getting saved. Another man, recently saved, was having trouble with the occult imagery in video games. He wanted to quit playing them. Do we say, “Go ahead and play them, I do! You’re free in Christ, remember?!” God forbid.
Are we free in Christ? “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2). This means that we are “free” from the consequences of sin (death) IF we walk after the Spirit – NOT if we walk after the flesh. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:6-8). Stated simply, those who are truly saved walk in the Spirit. They have neither need nor desire to take part in things “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). If they are tempted, what do they do? They take the thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) or they crucify the affection or lust (Gal. 5:24). It’s that simple.
Do we serve a God that’s more powerful than the “prince of the power of the air”, than the plethora of Hindu gods, rituals for the dead, altered states of consciousness, or the universal One-ness? Yes. We have nothing to fear from them! A true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will not allow herself to be brought under the power of any of these things. We know that God is greater than and more powerful than everything and everyone. If you know this, then you are completely unfettered by occult propaganda. It is meaningless drivel and you find it astonishing that anyone can fall for it. Here, Romans 14:22 speaks to us, “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth”. But we must ask ourselves, if we belong to Christ, do we live for ourselves? Is it enough to know that WE are safe? What about those who watch our every move simply because we confess Christ?
“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ” (1 Cor. 8:9-12). Think about that. If you imbibe in profane behaviour because of your liberty, you could defile your brother’s conscience and cause him to perish. And you sin… against CHRIST. Do you really need to show off your liberty that badly? Who are you trying to impress?
Romans 14:14b says, “to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean”.
Think about your sister who isn’t as strong as you, who is offended that the word “ass” means “donkey” in the Bible. Think about your “Christian”/New Age associate who does yoga for the purpose of being “one” with the universal consciousness to whom you are a witness. Consider the Christian research enthusiast who tells you that a tat right *there* channels demonic influence. For their sakes, abstain. And please don’t talk about how you do yoga for the exercise because it increases your range of motion and eases your back pain. They might think you meditate, too. Don’t talk about how you use the word “retard” (in its definitional sense) at home with your family, because they might think you discriminate against the differently gifted. And please don’t talk about that special piercing you got before you were saved for the guy you “used to know”. None of these things edify, and none of them encourage new or weak Christians to pursue the things of the Lord. Give them someone to look up to, not down at. There will be a time for you to commiserate, but let that time be Spirit-led, not ego-induced.
Let’s be clear. Having a cute little butterfly tattoo somewhere incognito might not raise any eyebrows, but having a sleeve of them might make you look a little obsessive. Having a belly piercing that you got in college that nobody sees might not offend the Almighty, but having a face full of them might just make people think you have issues. Explaining to your friend that when your mind is a blur, you centre your “chi” might fail to give the God you serve His due glory and cause people to wonder who’s side you’re on. What does it matter, you say? Who cares what people think? God does. As His child, you represent HIM, remember? How would you want to be represented by your child?
God teaches us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” and to “be careful to maintain good works” “as becometh women professing godliness” (1 Thess. 5:22, Tit. 3:8, 1 Tim. 2:10). We are to be “holy in all manner of conversation[i]” (1 Pet. 1:15), to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things”, and to “walk worthy of the Lord…” (Tit. 2:10, Col. 1:10). We are to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Can you live up to all these things? No, not alone. But by the power of the Holy Spirit that is within you, you can. You are not weak in Christ. You are strong.