Tag Archives: tattoos

Marring the Image

This photo appeared on my Facebook News Feed. I have no idea who is pictured in this photo.

This photo appeared on my Facebook News Feed. I have no idea who is pictured in this photo.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)

The image above appeared on my Facebook news feed recently. Naturally, there were many negative comments made about the young man, who I seriously doubt any of the commentators knew personally. What surprised me was what one young (I presume) lady said in his defense. In part she said, “The guy aint [sic] a pedophile, a murderer or a rapist, he has body modifications, so get over it. It is his body, his decision and he is not harming anyone.” How she knows that I haven’t an inkling. My guess is that she knows him as well as the other commentators, but what struck me was her assertion that “it is his body, his decision and he is not harming anyone.” All three points of her assertion are debatable, so let’s begin with that.

“It is his body.” Is it really? The best place to start is at the beginning. On the sixth day of creation, the Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  The Hebrew word translated “image” is tselem and it means an illusion, or resemblance – a representative figure. In other words, we were created to “look” like Him. God has a human body; His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. We were also created in His “likeness.” The Hebrew word translated “likeness” is demûth meaning resemblance or similitude. The commentator Albert Barnes notes that this implies a “‘likeness,’ in any quality.” Adam Clarke said:

The image and likeness must necessarily be intellectual; his mind, his soul, must have been formed after the nature and perfections of his God. The human mind is still endowed with most extraordinary capacities; it was more so when issuing out of the hands of its Creator. God was now producing a spirit, and a spirit, too, formed after the perfections of his own nature. God is the fountain whence this spirit issued, hence the stream must resemble the spring which produced it. God is holy, just, wise, good, and perfect; so must the soul be that sprang from him: there could be in it nothing impure, unjust, ignorant, evil, low, base, mean, or vile. It was created after the image of God … Hence man was wise in his mind, holy in his heart, and righteous in his actions.

So, as I look upon the young man in the picture, I see the image of God albeit marred. We take offense when we see some work of art vandalized. Our sensitivities are bruised when we see graffiti on public structures or buildings. Why? Because deep inside we know that the vandals do not have to right to disfigure the work of another. It is just wrong! In like manner, our bodies are God’s work of art! He created each one individually to bear His resemblance. The psalmist beautifully phrased it this way:

– I will praise thee [God]; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

– My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

– Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

Can we really say that our body is our own to do with as we wish – that it’s our decision? The Bible teaches otherwise. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Some may object, “Paul is addressing Christians.” Yes, and I see many “Christians” following the pattern set by pop culture. Again, I do not know anything about the young man in the picture. For all I know, he may claim to be a Christian. One thing is sure, God knows. The point, whether he is or isn’t a Christian, is that he has taken it upon himself to vandalize the image of God that he bears; he has no “right” to do that. Having been created in the image of God, he has free will to do as he wishes, and he has reasoning abilities to distinguish and decide how to exercise his will. But just as any vandal, he does not have the right to disfigure, damage, or destroy another’s property. God’s creation – all of it – is His property.

Who does it harm? Well, think of the possibilities. First of all, this person obviously has a low regard of his own worth. I am no psychiatrist or psychologist, but it seems obvious to me that he is desperately trying to draw attention to himself. He feels invisible otherwise. No one really sees him, so this is one way to shout, “Here I am! See me?” Someone who has a low regard for his own life will certainly not have a high regard for someone else’s life. The young lady who defended him saying that he is not “a pedophile, a murderer or a rapist,” had nothing on which to base that assessment. A pedophile has no regard for the value of a young child’s life. A murderer has no regard for the life of another human being. A rapist does not value the great worth of a woman. None of these sociopaths value the lives of their victims, and upon close examination, none of them value their own lives.

Someone who is willing to distort and disfigure their own appearance cannot be trusted. Some of the commentators on the Facebook post noted that this young man would have a lot of trouble getting a job. Is it any wonder? Unless one is running a tattoo parlor or a pot house, how many employers would be willing to put a face like that on their business? How many (sober) moms out would entrust a young child to the care of someone that looks like this? Yes, I hear the outcries of the self-righteous saying, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 taken out of context). The “judging” in this case refers to God’s judgement, which is reserved solely to Him. But God, as part of His image, has given everyone the ability to “judge rightly,” i.e., discern. Further down in that same passage Jesus says, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). Obviously, one has to exercise a certain amount of “judgement” to discern what is “holy” and who are the “dogs” and what are “pearls” and who are the “swine.” Likewise we, even in our fallen state, have the ability to make certain judgment calls. In teaching about “false prophets” Jesus said, “[By] their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). What is “fruit” but what a tree puts forth that can be seen and tasted. In the winter, when the trees have all lost their leaves, I can’t tell one tree from another; but when the summer comes, and I see the fruit that a tree is bearing, I know what kind of tree it is. Even if I were blind, I would still be able to smell and taste the fruit. People are the same; if they “look” messed up, they probably are, and they have the potential of harming others.

Now, I do not want to cast a broad net. I realize that people make mistakes that they later regret and their lives change, but the outward scars remain. I also realize that there are some people who look really good on the outside, but inwardly they are rotten to the core. A recent case in point were the would-be ISIS terrorists shot down in Garland, Texas by police before they were able to carry out their act of terror. The two men came from Phoenix, Arizona where neighbors in their apartment complex testified that these were two really nice guys. They were friendly toward their neighbors, helpful, hard workers, etc. – certainly not the kind that would attempt to commit such an atrocity. It goes to show that you cannot always judge by what you see; but most of the time you can.

Leaving the judgment of the heart to God, let’s focus back on just the image in the picture. Here is the image of God, distorted, disfigured, damaged and permanently scarred. What would possess someone do that to themselves? May I suggest Satan? Consider that Satan was created as a high-ranking angel, an archangel to be exact. In ranking, he was next to God (See “Why Satan?”). He, along with all the other angels, was created before God created man on Day Six of creation. He observed God’s care in the creation of man. He noted that God created man in His own image — not so the angels including Satan (Lucifer was his name). Lucifer watched as God gave to man dominion over all of His creation (Genesis 1:26-29), and now the angels were to serve man: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Oh! How this must have galled Lucifer! He has hated man ever since, and his goal from the beginning has been to mar the image of God – to destroy that which God most cherishes. When I look on the face of this young man, I see a young man so deceived by Satan that he succumbed to Satan’s bidding to mar the image of God that he carries. This image saddens me deeply. What saddens me more is when I see “Christians” ignorantly fall for the same deception – piercings, tattoos, immodest dress, vulgar language, etc. What kind of “fruit” do they exhibit? Appearances do matter. No one can judge the heart except God, but we are to bear His image and His likeness, and we cannot do that when we follow that pattern of the world that Satan displays as “pop culture.” Whose image shall we bear? Shall we persist on marring the image of God, or shall we remember that we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10).


Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, Origins, Religion, Satan, Theology

Be Ye Holy

Image Credit: Rob Birkbeck

Image Credit: Rob Birkbeck

Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 20:7)

First of all, I need to emphasize that I believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone apart from any works of the flesh (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:20; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5). In addition, salvation cannot be maintained through any effort on our part, but it is dependent on the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His ability and faithfulness to keep His promises. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29, emphasis added). Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:3). Then he provides a long list of possibilities before answering, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

That said, as His children, God still expects us to live “holy” lives. Our opening verse comes from the Old Testament law, and it was directed at the Children of Israel. Many Christians will object: “That’s Old Testament! We are ‘New Testament’ Christians. We are not under the Law; we are under Grace!” Well, what does the New Testament say? Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandmentsHe that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15, 21, emphasis added). Then He makes Himself our example: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10). Peter also echoes the words of the Old Testament when he says, “But as he [Jesus] which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [i.e., “manner of life” or “life conduct”]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). James, the brother of Jesus, puts it very plainly, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). James is not preaching a salvation of works, but rather calls for a practical, visible manifestation of the faith we claim. He explains: “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). A very simple illustration of James’ premise is this: To convince my wife to marry me, I told her that I loved her. But once we are married, I never take her out, I never help her at home, I never pay any attention to her or listen to her; I go out and spend time with my friends and leave her at home alone. I stay out late at night and use our home as sort of a “flop house.” Could an outside observer testify that I really love my wife? That is the point James is making. True faith demonstrates some sort evidence to the genuineness of that faith.

So what does it mean to be “holy”? Does it mean living a sinless life? If that were even possible, what purpose would Christ’s death on the cross serve? Of all our godly examples from Scripture, not one lived a sinless life, except for Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul lamented, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). So, being “holy” does not equate to being “sinless.”

The word “holy” means to be set apart. When God commanded the Children of Israel to be holy, He intended them to be distinct from the nations that surrounded them. Modern Christians often make light of the Old Testament laws and reject them as not applicable to New Testament saints. But, other than the sacrificial laws which were done away with the sacrifice of Christ, many of those laws were put in place for the sole purpose of distinguishing the people of God from the people of the world. Take for example, the prohibition against piercings and tattoos: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). Piercings, cuttings of the skin, tattoos, etc. were all common practices of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. These kinds of markings are still considered “beautiful” with many primitive people today. God wanted His people to be different. I selected this one example because it is one of the most obvious that I see among Christians today – they are hard to hide. To me what this says is “I can make my body more beautiful than the one God made for me.” That aside, the point is that we have a lost generation out there that needs a Savior, and this is what they do. Christians, rather than set themselves “apart,” fall right in line with the rest of the lost world, and yet, God still calls His people to be “holy.”

“Holy” also means to be “sanctified” or “consecrated,” i.e., to be “dedicated” to the service of the Lord. That does not mean that we put on our “holy” garments on Sunday for worship and live the rest of the week serving ourselves – in whatever form that takes. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2, emphasis added). A “living sacrifice” is a daily thing. Note that it is “holy” – distinct from the world around us. Our lives should not be conformed to the passing fads of this world, but rather our thinking should be “transformed” according to the pattern of our Savior. Our lifestyle, distinct and set apart from this world, will prove to the world, as James pointed out, “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” For that Christian who thinks this cannot be done, you are correct. It cannot be done through your own strength, but by the Grace that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. Be ye holy.

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