BEER, TATTOOS, AND JESUS
Yeah, let’s do this. Christians are divided—and even hostile over—the issue of alcohol. American Christians that is. In other parts of the world (including Jerusalem, the birthplace of our faith), Christians aren’t divided at all. They assume that drinking will be the norm for most believers. Crazy, right?
But let’s be very clear. The question isn’t what you think about wine. It’s not about the mature believer who drinks and loves Jesus very much. Or the family member whose life was destroyed by addiction. Or the drunk driver who killed a family member. It’s not even about what your church teaches concerning alcohol. It’s about what the Bible teaches. Period.
Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible
Yes, alcohol, like anything that is abused, can do damage. But again, what does God say about it?
God warns against drunkenness (Eph. 5:18, Rom. 13:13, 1 Pet. 4:3, Gal. 5:21). So, abuse of alcohol. Drinking to the point of drunkenness is a non-starter for a Christ-follower. Addiction is also warned against (Isa. 5:11; 28:7 Prov. 23:21).
Okay, we’ve covered abuse and addiction. I know, I know. “If you never drink, you won’t have to worry about those things.” True enough. Fine-sounding logic. Again—what do the Scriptures say? Because THAT’S what we follow.
Yes, Jesus turned water into wine. NOT grape juice. Wine. Oinos is the word that is used. Oinos is always fermented. He made so much wine that He actually left them a gift that would last for quite a long time. Actually, John the Baptist had a Nazarite vow that wouldn’t allow him to drink. The religious leaders said he had a demon. Jesus did drink, and they called him a drunkard (Luke 7:33-34).
Sometimes, well-meaning Christians will say, “But it wasn’t very strong back then. So it was okay. Plus, the water was dirty, so they had to have some alcohol.” If it wasn’t strong, why do the Scriptures warn against “strong drink?” Why does Paul tell the Ephesians not to get drunk with wine? Yeah, that dog won’t hunt.
Psalm 104:15 calls wine a gift “to gladden the heart of man.” Ecclesiastes 9:7 tells the reader to drink wine with a cheerful heart because God approves of it. Proverbs 31:6 refers to wine as a medicine, a salve for those who are perishing or whose life is bitter. While Ephesians 5:18 says not to get drunk with wine, why does it not say, “Don’t drink wine”? Because it was assumed they’d drink. But they were not to get drunk.
So why do AMERICAN Christians have such trouble with the concept of drinking to God’s glory? Praising God for a glass of wine, for instance? The answer goes back to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of the late 1800s. Together—with the progressives of their time—they assured Prohibition and spoke harshly about all alcohol use. And it literally changed church culture. We are still feeling those effects today. What they didn’t change? The freedom the Scriptures give to either partake to God’s glory or abstain to God’s glory. And our responsibility as Christ-followers to respect each individual’s convictions (Romans 14:1-4).
Alright, here’s the deal: Bible-belt Christians tend to go nuts over people getting ink. They quote an Old Testament verse to prove that tattoos are evil. You might be one of those who is convinced that tattoos are wrong. We want to say this as lovingly as we can: “Dude, you’re wrong.”
The verse that is quoted to prove that ink is a sin is this: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28).
Here’s the problem: That verse deals with tattooing for dead people as a type of magic. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t have those kinds of tatts. But even if it were universally applied (“no one can have ink done without being in sin”), it would be pretty hypocritical to enforce this rule without also enforcing the other rules found in the same chapter.
Christians and Tattoos
“Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (Lev. 19:19).
“Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it” (vs. 26).
“Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Lev. 19:27).
Look, the Old Covenant is just that—Old. It was NEVER given to Gentiles to follow. It was given to Jews. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant, and we are now under the New Covenant.
Romans 10:4 says that “Christ is the end of the law . . .” Hebrews 8:13 calls the Old Covenant Law “obsolete” and says it is “passing away.” Again, the point is you can have a tattoo if you want. Let the religious people keep screaming about their rules. We don’t follow man’s religion—we follow Jesus.
BUT, if you’re living under your parents’ roof, respect them first, and only get a tattoo if they approve. Or wait until you’re out of their house. And, y’know, making REAL sure you can live the rest of your life with the ink you get. Like they say, “No Ragrets!”