This post is in response to a question from someone close. The subject of tattoos was brought up and the final question was in regards to tattoo content. Is it OK for a Christian to have a tattoo of something that shows their faith in Christ? The answer is directed to any Christian who is seriously considering a tattoo.
Before answering this question, we should look at some associated scripture in order to set the context and relevance of the conclusions drawn.
"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord" Leviticus 19:28
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, Will of God." Romans 12:2
"What? do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." I Corinthians 6:19-20
In every biblical commentary worth reading it is stated that Leviticus 19:28 is part of a general condemnation of Pagan practices of all sorts. The specific example of this verse is a description of self mutilation and Tattooing. There are many cultures in this world, past and present, that use(d) tattoos for many different reasons, but they all have similar roots and common themes, and the number one theme is death.
Flesh mutilation, blood letting, piercing, and tattooing are all seen as religious rites by these same cultures that all originate from Paganism, Demonism, Baal worship, Shamanism, Mysticism, Heathenism, and finally Cannibalism. These "rites" are considered by these cultures to be occultic and demonic sources of supernatural power and control. When one partakes in the ritual he/she accepts the supernatural spirits associated with this visible worldly culture, as well as the possibility of the future bondage that comes with it.
The Lord sees any Christian's connection to Pagan activity as a mixing of sacred with the sacrilegious and as such considers it sinful. In the Leviticus verse he magnifies the importance by his words "Ye shall not...", and sternly reminds the reader that he is your Lord. He feels the same way about prostituting our daughters and the ordination of homosexual ministers.
Secondly, in I Corinthians 6, we are reminded that our bodies are not our own, we were bought with a price and are therefore owned by the Lord. The body you inhabit is not yours to mutilate, tattoo, or destroy in any way. Romans 12 exhorts us to not be conformed to this world, and unfortunately some Christians would like to be tattooed in order to "blend in" with the world around them.
Some think that they can use a tattoo to advertise their faith in Christ and that in that case God will make an exception when it comes to judgement. The Eastern Hindu culture espouses this "devotional" aspect of the tattoo experience; Early 19th Century Ramnaamis (India) tattooed the name of their God "Ram" in Sanskrit all over their bodies to protect themselves from upper caste Brahmins. In all religions outside of Christianity, God's are unknowable spirits and idols that need to be revered in mystical ways, like tattoo's.
Your God is not unknowable. You know him and he knows everything about you. He is approachable and you have an intimate personal relationship with him, there is no need for superficial, mystical reverence in order to glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Many Pagan cultures use tattoos as a necessary "key" to entering the next world, and believe that without them they cannot pass on to what they view as "heaven". A Christian has no need of a "key" to heaven in the form of a tattoo, we know that Jesus Christ is the key.
Other cultures that include shamanism and voodoo regard tattoos as "amulets" to be used as protection from evil spirits. As Christians, we know the air is filled with demonic spirits, and powers / principalities that we cannot see and as long as we are in faith, they cannot possess us. The Lord has built a hedge around us because we are his children and he loves us, we don't need a tattoo to protect us.
There is a particular spirit behind the tattoo culture. Go to a tattoo shop and look at the designs, listen to the conversations, pay attention to the themes on the wall. Entering into that culture will expose you to spirits that are not acceptable to God and continued disobedience will result in that "hedge" being pulled down. A big risk for something that "looks cool". I won't get into detail about the possible health issues of Hep-"C", AIDS, and many skin disorders, there is plenty information available on the Internet.
God created man in His own image. It is the goal of Satan to destroy you, body and soul, because he hates your likeness of God. He uses many devices to entice, entrap and exploit the unaware Christian, and this is just one of those many devices targeting the desire to be accepted by others while trying to keep a foot in the kingdom of God at the same time. This is a dangerous game, and Satan is out to win.
God will forgive someone who repents of having the most heinous, evil tattoo you can imagine, just like he will forgive any sin a Christian commits and repents of. However, eventually unrepentant sin hardens the heart to the ways of the Spirit of God, and can finally draw you away from God. Add this dimension to the supernatural activities surrounding this culture and you are playing with fire.
As stated earlier, you were bought for a price, a price that Jesus Christ paid by willingly giving up his life on the cross. Your body, soul, and spirit belongs to him: To turn it into an idol is anything but scriptural.