I've been thinking about this topic all summer. The area of Pittsburgh where I lived was a location where everyone had tattoos. (Yes everyone). Bars where literally every other building on Liberty Avenue, and a friend of mine has his very own brewery. Are tattoos appropriate for Christians? Should believers drink? Is it right for the faithful to smoke? Very often those who profess Christ think that because they don't have a sip of alcohol they will see the pearl gates.
I would like to suggest that it is ok for believers to do any and all of the above with the following conditions and questions. First with piercings. It is necessary to utilize cultural wisdom on this issue as in many African nations an ear piercing means that you are a slave. But in America and Britain, it is the norm for ladies and a good number of men as well. Especially in the inner city culture. Most Christians affirm that it is A-OK to get ears pierced, but don't say anything is ok beyond that. To be consistent, if it is ok to get your ears done, then why not anything else? I would argue it is because they are not comfortable allowing those because they are outside their culture. (Again use Cultural Wisdom)
Smoking and Beer are on the same silver platter in this discussion. A lot of theologians and pastors make an excellent argument for moderation, and that is the biblical standard that I see as most valid and biblical. (Check out Mark Driscoll on this in his book The Radical Reformission.)
Finally is an issue much more tricky, yet I say that getting a tattoo is an issue of Christian liberty, just like the previous three issues. In the very same verse that Christians use against tattoos, Moses outlaws piercings... so why the inconsistency? I would argue it stems because it is outside their culture and lacks history within the church, though some ascetic groups burned marks into their skin.
It is imperative that one uses cultural wisdom, but it is also important to discern biblically your heart and motives. Cultural wisdom is necessary is necessary because often tattoos can stigmatize you from your family, friends, community, essentially your culture. But it is more important to ask questions of the heart.
(1) What are your motives?
---is it rebellion against God, family, your culture?
---is it to express your individuality?
---do you believe that it is how you can best glorify God?
(2) Would it become a barrier to sharing the Gospel to your surrounding culture? or help?
As you search your heart to see if any of the four issues would cause you to fall into sin, or lead others to sin, then don't smoke, drink, pierce or get inked. But if it is the other case entirely then figure out if your culture permits it, then why not?
But in my jet, just get a Henna redone every month :-p But I am looking forward to the next Ask John Podcast from Desiring God, as it deals with this very issue.