Do Old Testament rules about things like tattoos and hair length apply to us today, or were they intended only for their original pre-Christian audience? What do you do when you come across a passage that contains some rules that seem timeless and others that seem specific to the culture of Old Testament Israel?
Here’s how Delve Into Jesus answers that question:
In almost every case, when Paul or another apostle commands us to obey some cultural custom, the goal is to demonstrate to the world that we are children of God and to distance ourselves from the pagans. This was a very serious issue in the 1st century. Many new Christians had been gentiles or pagans and the early Church leaders wanted to ensure that they did not slip back into their old ways. It was also important that they did not have any kind of external appearance which made people think that they were still worshiping their old idols. This is the main reason for the decree that men should not have long hair, tattoos, or body piercings. These were things the pagans did, so any Christians who looked that way might cause others to be concerned.
That principle remains the same thousands of years later. Rightly or wrongly, people judge by appearances. As Christians, we need to avoid doing anything that would cause others to be uncomfortable with the way we look, or would cause them to fail to recognize us as followers of Christ. This is particularly true when we are witnessing to non-Christians.
The essence of the commandments given to us by Paul and Moses thousands of years ago still apply today even though the cultural specifics have changed. We must not give our fellow Christians a reason to think we have slipped into “pagan” ways. Likewise, we must not give unbelievers any reason to judge us and reject us before we have had a chance to present the Good News.
Do you agree that the principles behind these Old Testament regulations still apply? Or have they been completely superseded by the New Testament law of grace?