By Julie Roys
Why would a Christian woman get a tattoo across the length of her torso and then display it publicly by wearing a skimpy bikini to the beach? I found myself asking this question after I saw a woman matching this description over the weekend. Her tattoo read, “By the grace of Christ, I breathe” and extended along the side of her body from her underarms to her hips.
To me, this woman’s body was a living oxymoron, like a billboard simultaneously promoting two contradictory beliefs – Christianity and Gnosticism. You see, Christianity teaches that God has imbued the human body with meaning. It reflects His glory and needs nothing added to it nor subtracted from it to convey a good and complete message.
Gnosticism, on the other hand, teaches the body is at best meaningless, and at worst, evil. It was created by a power-hungry and subordinate god and like all matter, has no inherent value. It’s sort of like an empty canvas for self-expression.
Christians should treat their bodies radically differently from the way Gnostics treat theirs. But, we don’t. And when I see this practical disconnect, it makes me wonder if Christians unknowingly have adopted Gnostic beliefs. Let me explain.
Gnosticism originated in the first centuries A.D. It was branded heretical by the church, but has made a comeback in post-modern America. Its ideas are commonly promoted in anything New Age. The notion that god is within you and that one needs to look inside for truth is decidedly Gnostic. New Agers, like Gnostics, also believe the body is unspiritual; it’s what’s inside that’s sacred and good.
Similarly, the pornography industry promotes Gnostic ideas about the body. It advances sexuality as something simply to be indulged and the body as simply a means for this indulgence. Again, the body is an object, completely void of any spiritual meaning.
So, why are Christians writing on their bodies and flaunting their sexuality like everyone else? I think it’s because our view of the body is more Gnostic than biblical. And sadly, I’ve seen the church promote these Gnostic ideas. I once heard a preacher refer to the body as simply an earth-suit that houses our soul. Even worse, I’ve heard Christians equate the body with the sin nature – making it a thoroughly evil entity! But these notions are inconsistent with Scripture.
Sure, the body can be used as an instrument of wickedness. But as Paul teaches in First Timothy 6, when submitted to God, the body becomes an instrument of righteousness. God designed our body and soul, our sexuality and spirituality, to be a holy and good, integrated whole.
So, Christians should dress with modesty and propriety because we understand our sexuality reflects God’s goodness and beauty. Especially when consummated in the marital embrace, sexuality is a symbol of triune unity and love. Similarly, we Christians shouldn’t mark our bodies, nor should we feel compelled to write evangelistic messages on our flesh. A body properly clothed and free from mutilations or enhancements already reveals God’s glory.