Tag: context

Jesus loves Tattoos

Christians who harbor a religious, legalistic spirit love to tout what they are “against” in the world. I am sure some are well intentioned and simply want to be faithful, yet many live their lives examining the lives of others to see where they line up or don’t line up to their understanding of the Bible.

One such area some Christians stand against is the issue of tattoos.

It’s interesting to me that most of the bible passages people use to bash other people with for doing something they don’t agree with are often taken out of context. As the saying goes, “if you take the text out of the context, you will make a con out of the text.”

If you take a passage from the Bible out of context or don’t see how certain words have been translated over the course of time in interpretive ways, you can make the Bible basically say just about anything.

So let’s take a look at the one passage in the Bible that some believe deals with the issue of “tattoos” today.

Leviticus 19:23-28  “When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it. 24 In the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the Lord as a celebration of praise. 25 Finally, in the fifth year you may eat the fruit. If you follow this pattern, your harvest will increase. I am the Lord your God. 26 “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood. “Do not practice fortune-telling or witchcraft. 27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards. 28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.

Seems pretty straight forward right? “…do not mark your skin with tattoos.” Not when we come to understand that though all the Bible is written for us, not all of the Bible is written to us. Furthermore, to assume that what was meant by a term in its Biblical/historical context is what it should mean for us today is a very dangerous interpretive tactic.

Thus, the importance of context. This passage in Leviticus, including the surrounding verses, is specifically addressing the pagan religious practices of the people living around the Israelites.  The focus here is prohibiting cultic worship and witchcraft. God does not want them engaged in the same religious practices that could lead them away from trusting Him as the One true God.

Furthermore, check out verses 26-27, “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood. Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.” Obviously many Christians today eat meats and don’t groom like Sasquatch and in doing so are not participating in cultic worship and witchcraft. In the context of Leviticus 19, these customs were associated with pagan rites and rituals. Today they are obviously not.

Tattoos of today are dramatically different than they were for those of Leviticus 19 in purpose, meaning, and practice. Today, tattoos are an artistic means of self expression and bodily ornamentation. It would be nearly impossible to find a Christian today who doesn’t modify their appearance for beauty or expression in many ways such as fashion, makeup, plastic surgery, haircutting, coloring, tanning, weight loss, body-building, piercings etc.  Many of these practices were associated with false religions in Old Testament times, but in our context today, they do not create nor symbolize an automatic connection with evil or pagan religion. The context today is entirely different for us and for God.  Tattoos today do not link the wearer to cultic worship practices as they did in the context of the Israelites of Leviticus 19.

Yet another reason to believe all people, including Christians, are free to tattoo their bodies is that New Testament believers are not bound by the Old Testament ritualistic and purification laws in order to establish and maintain a relationship with God. If we were, we would also be shackled to rules that would restrict shellfish, pork, hairstyles, certain fabric combinations, and even eating cheese.

Some people feel that changing the body somehow defiles God’s creation. So, does piercing ears, correcting a physical abnormality, cutting hair, clipping our nails, getting a tan or using an orthodontist also defile God’s creation?

The fact that some Christians avoid getting a tattoo and project their belief about tattoos onto others because they are trying to impress God, maintain their relationship or good standing with Him, bolster their spiritual pride, or want to condemn or judge others is all the more reason why Jesus in fact loves tattoos. Religiously and legalistically spirited Christians love to try to find biblical perches from which they can stand over and against people. Fortunately, Jesus is the ultimate perch destroyer as He levels the playing field by making faith and the Christian life about His performance, not ours; His righteousness, not our religious rule-keeping.  Jesus especially love tattoos because now they represent the freedom He purchased for all people to live under Grace, not Law; His righteousness, not rule-keeping.

Getting a tattoo certainly isn’t for everybody, and anyone can use a tattoo to communicate things that are not good nor of God. But tattoos in and of themselves are not evil nor unfaithful.

The refusal to get a tattoo for so called “Christian” reasons  should be seriously examined for underlying spiritual pride, idolatry of religious performance, and legalism. The avoidance of getting a tattoo because “I want to be a faithful Christian” may just be a matter of Biblical misunderstanding or could very well be a spiritual veil to a life devoid of Grace.


Top 5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

Part 1 of 6

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

Mixing is for Gin not the Gospel

Most Christians and Christian leaders love the concept of God’s Grace, but up to a point. As long as it’s mixed with what they would say is a “balancing” bit of Law (religious rules you obey) they are more than willing to cozy up to “Grace.” So, what has happened is that when it comes to salvation and the Christian life, “Grace” is seen as a kind of partner or side-kick within the Gospel. It’s seen as the softer aspect of God that tips our hat to His loving side. Conversely, the Law is seen as what makes sure people clean up their acts, do religious things, hunger for more “to do steps and strategies” and take sin seriously.  That’s why when you present God’s Grace in its purity (without the Law), typically, all bets are off as some Christian leaders become afraid of what they would call, “too much Grace.”

Yet, the Gospel is either all Grace or it’s all Law, there can be no mixture (balance) of a little bit of Grace and a little bit of Law. In fact, the Bible makes dramatic separations and distinctions between the two. A couple, among many examples…

Romans 6:14 …because you are not under the law, but under grace.

John 1:17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:4  For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

The pure Gospel of God’s Grace (a term Paul used in Acts 20:24) has always brought a stirring of criticism among the religiously spirited. I should know, I was one of them. Thankfully, God captured my heart and changed my mind about who He is, who I am, and the Gospel of His Grace.

I suspect there are many Christians who don’t even realize how much of what they have been taught and believe is contrary to the Gospel. I certainly didn’t. Like many unknowing Christians and spiritual leaders, my heart was in the right place, but my beliefs were not. As a pastor of 18 years, I did not realize (until a couple years ago) how much of my teaching, preaching and counsel actually placed people in bondage instead of the freedom I (and God) desired for them. When it came to the Gospel, I was so close, yet so far away.

So, what is the pure Gospel of Grace? In simple terms it is this…

The Gospel

We are all born sinners in a broken world. Everything about our lives has en expiration date on a pathway to death. In the Garden of Eden, our lives were forever changed as our first parents chose selfishness and distrust over faith in God.  Sin and death became realities and it’s shrapnel has penetrated everything, breaking our fellowship with God.  What God intended for our lives and living was poisoned through and through.Without an act of pure Grace, all of humanity in its sinful brokeness was destined for death, spiritually, emotionally, and physically as our best efforts could never repair our broken relationship with God and the depraved nature of our lives and living begun at the fall of Adam and Eve.

Yet, despite all of this. God is love, and God loves you perfectly, completely, and unconditionally, no matter who you are or what you have done or are doing. So much that He sent His son Jesus, fully God and fully man to die for your sins, and all of humanity. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the brokeness of all creation, including you. In His death and resurrection, Jesus put your sins to death and gave you His life. A new covenant was put into place where Jesus’ performance on the cross becomes your righteousness, holiness, and salvation. It is no longer about performing to get to God (as it was in the Old Testament), but God’s performance on the cross to get to you. His life becomes your life. His identity becomes your identity. The redemptive work in your life was completed, completely. You became a new person in Christ, a new creation in fact. Your sins, past, present, and future were all forgiven once and for all. It is no longer your nature to sin (though we still do), your old nature was crucified with Jesus on the cross. Sin no longer defines you, Jesus defines you. You old self died, you new self was reborn. You have the mind of Christ. You are a partaker of the divine nature, lacking no spiritual blessing. You are in fact, the righteousness of Christ, with no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are not only a son (or daughter), but a king and priest in the Kingdom of God. As He is (seated at the right hand of God) so are you in this world. God’s favor and Grace are forever over your life.

All of this, Jesus provided and accomplished on the cross on your behalf, and that of the whole world. The moment you believe in who Jesus is and what He did, you receive it all. Done deal. We are saved by Grace through faith.

Now, it is no longer you who lives, but Christ living in you, and as you. The same Grace that saved you is the same Grace that sustains and sanctifies you. The Christian life is about growing into who you already are in Christ. Your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe. That’s why this growth happens through faith, not your efforts. You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only bear the fruit God produces.  It’s no about striving and trying to be a better person, it’s rather about believing you already are a better person and living from that identity. It’s not about shame, guilt, punishment and religious rule keeping as you live a life focused on sin and your obedience. That system of living was canceled on the cross, at the moment of His resurrection, a new system was ushered in by Jesus Himself. It’s a life of complete and ever present forgiveness, freedom, peace, and rest as you focus on Jesus and His mercy, favor, and performance in your life, not yours. It’s an obedience of faith, not of actions. It’s a life of living from His Grace, in His Grace, to be Grace to others.

This is the Gospel.

So What’s The Beef?

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  Yet, what sounds like true love, freedom, and life, to the religious sounds like heresy! The Gospel can’t be that good. Give people Grace and they will just sin more. Besides, how are we going to be able to manage people? You are going too soft on sin, and what about repentance! Repentance, repentance, repentance! If we don’t give people something to work on, strive for, and do, how can we keep them coming and interested in church? God does His part, but we have to do our part, or else.

A Quick Clarification

Now, let me be clear with you. There are various variations of what people believe about the Gospel of Grace. So, if you couldn’t tell from my explanation of the Gospel written above, let me be sure you know what I am not… I am not a Calvinist nor a Universalist. I don’t believe God predestined, through what they call “irresistible Grace,” to regenerate some and not others so that some believe, but others do not, thus having some go to heaven and others to Hell. How that is considered Grace, I will never know. Yet, I am also not a Universalist who believes all are going to heaven, whether they really want to or not. I find both these systems of beliefs not congruent with how I understand the Gospel. I love my Calvinist and Universalist friends, by I respectfully don’t agree with them.

5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

That said, there are many people who are against and critical of the Gospel of God’s Grace as I (and others) understand it. They call it “hyper-grace,” cheap Grace” and a host of other names. And, they line up their Bible passages to refute it. Here are the top 5 passages (not in any particular order) they use and an explanation of how these passages in fact, do not refute the message of the Gospel of God’s Grace. One of the blessings of believing the Gospel of Grace is that it transforms the way you read the Bible. You realize that God is not in the bait and switch business of drawing you in with love only to blast you with Law. No, He is love from top to bottom and inside and out, and He perfectly loves you. When you see this you will no longer become frightened or confused when you read passages like those listed below.

keep reading… Part 2

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

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