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Body Ornamentation

Excuse me, sir, may I ask you a rather personal question? I couldn’t help but notice the rings in your ears, nose, and…eyebrow. Why do people do that?

Well, for me it began when I started high school. Having an earring was daring and radical. An earring was the rite of passage into the group that was cool. With my earring I belonged to a group that had connections. The nerds would cast a furtive glance of awe. I was emboldened to go places I did not dare go before. When the cool kids saw my earring, they knew I was one of them and treated me with respect.

The earring gave me power and I wanted more. I wanted to have more impact on people. I wanted to push my parents around a bit and flex my individuality. That’s when I got a ring in my other ear. My parents did not know what to do. They cried, they became angry, they wrung their hands, but they could do nothing to change what I had done. It was great! Some people thought I was a homosexual. I really didn’t care what they thought, I had pushed beyond the old traditional boundaries. I knew what lay beyond. I had knowledge that they did not have. Eventually they looked at me with more awe and respect.

Then I started seeing people with rings on other parts of their body. It was exciting to look in the tattoo and body piercing shops and see all the cool and creative things that can be done. I started to try new things and explore. I began to see my body as my very own canvas upon which I could experiment and advertise who I am. Friends told me about the awesome experience of inflicting intense pain upon their own bodies for the euphoric reaction. For some it became a type of atonement and inner peace.

Body piercing is not new. It has a long history in many exciting cultures. Only recently has it made a huge surge into American culture. Now that it can be done safely, I look at it as a form of art that enhances me. So many people are doing it now. The key to successful body ornamentation is to know yourself, to be creative, and be different than everyone else.

That first earring opened up a whole new world for me; a world of new people, exciting people, daring people, different people. It freed me from the stuffy religion and tradition of my parents and helped me to see that real people in the everyday world have a wonderful variety of religious ideas and expressions. I believe now that every culture and religion has something good to offer. The best life is one that is a good mixture of all these things that is suitable for who you are. Life is colorful, not black and white. Look around you, don’t you see all the Christmas lights that adorn the trees and buildings? We need to do all we can to make our lives more colorful. Christmas is the one part of Christianity that I like because it is so cheerful and decorative. All the rigid sermons and stagnant doctrine is quite worthless for an exciting and colorful life. The Roman Catholics, I think, do the best job of making worship colorful, though many other Christian groups are making some progress. People just need to relax a bit.

You just need to take that first step. I can tell just by looking at you that you are stuck in your old traditional rut. If you want to enjoy life, you need to loosen up a bit. You need to find yourself. Bring out the real you with some body enhancements. Don’t hide it all behind your fears of what might happen.

One pierced ear; is that so bad? I would never go any further than that. It would certainly get attention from the guys at school. I’m sure it would open some doors for me into that “new world.” I would be the talk of the church people around their dinner tables. Some of the hopelessly stuffy folk will look at me with scorn, but deep down they probably would like to have a taste of life with the cool group. Besides, what is the big deal about a little hole punched in my ear? It is just a cultural thing. There does not have to be any religious significance attached. Even the Israelite men that came from Egypt had earrings.

Is it so simple, so innocent? Let’s take a look at the idea of a man being pierced. What does God reveal to us concerning his will regarding men and pierced body parts. We read in Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17 of the slave that wants to be a slave of a particular master all his life: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” Here having one’s ear pierced was a sign of life-long submission to a master. In Exodus 32:1-4 we read that sons, along with the wives and daughters broke off earrings for making the golden calf. Does this mean it was customary for Israelite men to wear earrings? It only proves that slaves had earrings, for they had just come out of slavery from Egypt. Some men did wear earrings out of custom, but they were not Israelites, they were the Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24). When we look to the New Testament, we note that Christ was pierced with a spear after he died. This was a testimony of His total submission to the Father (cf. Philippians 2:8; Isaiah 53:5,10). It is a general principle throughout the word of God that for a man to be pierced means to be lowered.

Yet the word of God also reveals that it is not shameful or demeaning for a woman to have earrings. We read in Ezekiel 16:12 of the picture of God taking His people as a bride unto Himself: “And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.” We also read in Genesis 24 that the servant of Abraham put earrings in the ears of Rebekah. In marriage, being pierced is a symbol of the woman’s life-long union with her husband as head. She belongs to him and she submits to him as her head. And in a Christ centered marriage, submission to a loving husband brings great peace and contentment to the home.

God has ordained marriage and God-ordained authorities as the only place among human relations where submission brings joy and harmony before God. Submission outside of marriage and God ordained authority is miserable bondage. The child of God fights against the worldly philosophies and sinful life that ever seeks to have dominion. He does not give in and show signs upon his body that he serves another god. The godly woman also does not feel threatened when she sees men entering the realm of ear piercing and pierces her ears with multiple holes. She understands the principles and sticks with simple modesty.

What about tattoos or any other cutting of one’s body for decorative or mystical experiences? All these things belong to an outward show of the antithesis between the people of God and the wicked. God makes this distinguishing separation between His people and the wicked: His people were to put no permanent marks upon their bodies. Those who did, did not show themselves to be the people of God. (Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Deut. 14:1; I Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:37; Mark 5:5; Rev. 13:16-17; Rev. 14:9; Rev. 14:11; Rev. 15:2; Rev. 16:2; Rev. 19:20; Rev. 20:4). The pagans used to gash their skin and put a die upon the wound making it a permanent sign of slavery to their pagan deity. With this the child of God will have nothing to do. The antithesis is spiritual in essence, but God has given a physical sign as well. Only those marks ordained by God, such as circumcision in the Old Testament belong to the people of God.

We are servants (slaves) of the Living God. The sign of belonging to Him is our baptism and lives of thankful obedience. Does this mean that the life of the child of God is as dull and colorless as some would claim? Not at all. Of all people, the believer is the most beautifully adorned. We read of the godly woman, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:” (I Peter 3:3-5). A meek and quiet spirit is not the ornament of the woman only, but also the man in Christ for we read in Col. 3:12-14, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Let us put on the jewelry of faith, the sign of our belonging to God.

The ornamentation of the believer is opposite in character to that of the unbeliever. The ornamentation of the unbeliever is loud, drawing attention to self, while that of the believer is quiet, drawing attention away from self and toward God. It is ornamentation that is very strange to the unbeliever. A meek spirit makes one invisible as far as worldly attention goes. When noticed, the meek are despised by the world. But a meek and quiet spirit is beautiful within the life of believers in the church and beautiful in the eyes of God. A meek and quiet spirit is that ornamentation of the church which reflects the perfect grace of God. May we strive to show forth His glory and beauty in our lives as believers. ♦♦♦