One of my favorite sections of Scripture for teaching young women how to navigate through their teens and twenties comes from Titus 2:11-14. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Of course there is quite a bit of meat in this passage, and it is a good one for all of us, not just young women. I want to point out just a couple of things from this passage. The grace of God teaches us. And what does it teach us? To say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to say yes to righteousness. Also note: He has given Himself for us and purified us so we can be His own special people. So when it comes to our perspective on tattoos, piercings, blue hair, and lip studs, we can look to the grace of God to teach us what to think about it all. And we should wonder if this is how we should live and look as God’s own special people.
When women first started wearing trousers, it was rebellious, true. But today when women wear trousers, it does not communicate any such thing. (Unless your mother told you not to wear trousers to some event, and you did anyway just to spite her. But you could do that just as well with a hoop skirt.)
Cultures change and shift and adapt, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. Nevertheless, some things will always be viewed as wrong or skewed in every culture, in every age. When a beautiful woman cuts up her face with a razor, everyone knows she is at war with the image of God. If she tattoos a spider web on her face, everyone agrees she is sending the message to the world that she hates herself. At least that is the message all the world hears, though Christians don’t always get it. This can be seen as well with dog collars, spiky purple hair, and tongue studs. All these are degrading and anti-human, anti-image-of-God. A woman who has been hurt and unloved can resort to such desperate measures in a futile attempt to sort of give everyone the finger. “I don’t care what you all think. I will show you! Just look at how I can disfigure God’s image in me!” It is very sad to see.
Some of these things like piercings and tattoos fall into the category of outright rebellion, and some fall into the category of using discernment and wisdom. For example, a tattoo, no matter how “cute” it may seem at the time, can certainly (at the very least) create the potential for regret later. So it is foolish and short-sighted. Blue hair can be washed out, but it is still like painting an ugly mustache on the Mona Lisa. Temporary or not, everyone knows it does not belong there.
Earrings in the ears are universally known to be lovely, unless they are the size of cantaloupes and are designed to drag the ear lobes down to the armpits. Then we all recognize it as a deformity and a beauty-obstruction, the fruit of darkness. Rings in the nose, eyebrows, tongue or lip can be more of the same cries for help from sad and lonely people who do not know who they are.
If we belong to Christ, if we are His own special people, then we are set free from sin and death. We don’t need to live in it any longer, and we don’t have to drag our chains around with us. We are unshackled and made new creations in Christ. A people zealous for good works. This is what should define us, not the markings and piercings of a lost generation.
Now some of you are going to ask, “But how do you know that is what the tattoos and piercings mean? How can you say it is the uniform of the other team?” The Bible tells us to deny worldliness, but it does not give us a list of worldly items. We are to be taught by the grace of God about this. We are to chase after wisdom and lay hold of it.
The world knows how to speak its message, and it knows how to entice Christians to buy its wares. That’s why the Bible has multiple warnings to Christians about not conforming to the world, not loving the world, not being pressed into the world’s mold. The world has a powerful message and Christians ought to at least pay it the respect of acknowledging the content of the message. Spiky blue hair and lip rings and tattoos are all yelling at the top of their lungs and most everyone hears it, except for the Christians who want to shanghai the message. “No, this lip ring does not mean rebellion, it means nothing of the kind. I just want to shake up the church ladies with my edginess.”
The world speaks a language, loud and clear, and Christians need to listen to what it is saying. Only then can they discern whether the message is true or false. If the message of tattoos and piercings is a God-hating message and everyone knows it, but the Christians re-interpret the message to be something like, “Hey, this is cool,” then they have been snookered, fooled, and reeled in.
Compare it to this. Just imagine that you went to a foreign country and unknowingly kept using a hand signal that meant something very bad in their language. You thought you were just waving hello, but everyone on the street knew what it really meant. In a similar way, the Christian may be wearing the other team’s uniform in an uninformed manner, but all the world knows how to read it well enough.
We need to quit making excuses for the world and giving it a free rein and a free pass, excusing and overlooking and ingratiating ourselves. It is much healthier to reject it without being intimidated or embarrassed or feeling like we must have a Bible verse that says don’t pierce your eyebrow, you nincompoop.
Finally, I just have to tell a story. A young woman was telling a young man about the very cool tattoo on her back (or shoulder) that was the Mandarin word for chaos. The young man looked at the tattoo, and then acted surprised. “Do you know Mandarin?” “No,” she said with a panic stricken look. “Do you? What does it say?” “Bad news,” he said. “It says stupid white girl.”
You get the point.