I’ve seen it in the gentle coloring of the trees outside of our home, that yearly reminder that Fall is here. Right along with Fall comes the harvest season: cornstalks and hay bales and apples and pumpkins… and the “holiday” of Halloween, possibly one of the most controversial holidays for those who are in Christ.
I’m not sure about you, but the Halloween issue is something I’ve always struggled with as a Christ-follower (it’s right up there with what to do with Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.). What to do with Halloween is one of those be-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world gray areas that seems to so often divide Christians.
Yes, I’ve researched both the pagan roots for the holiday and it’s Catholic counterpart, All Saint’s Day. And I’ve read a few articles lately about what Christians should or should not do in regards to this day. I’m just not sure I agree anymore.
When I was growing up, my family did not dress-up or trick-or-treat, but we did hand out candy from our house during the years that we were not in missionary training (before we went overseas). However, my husband (who also grew up in a Bible believing home) and his siblings donned costumes and went door-to-door up through their teenage years!
So, when our firstborn came along, we weren’t sure which path to choose. We had the desire to please the Lord in our parenting choices, but we honestly weren’t really sure where to draw the line between freedom in Christ and being “set apart” in this area.
At first, we decided to participate only in our church’s fall festival, a Halloween alternative which was held on the same evening as Halloween, without costumes, but with games and candy. It was so much fun for the whole family!
However, my philosophical brain rejected the idea that it would be somehow “acceptable” to participate in a candy-oriented event on the same night as Halloween as long as we called it by another name and held it at a church yet “unacceptable” to dress in a costume and go trick-or-treating. Weren’t we still celebrating the holiday, just in a different way?
And what about our other “Christian” holidays, like Christmas and Easter. Weren’t those dates and even many of our traditions borrowed from pagan holidays as well? (I know I was shocked when I researched the origins of Christmas in particular.) Yet, over the centuries, we’ve managed to bring Christ into the center of those holidays.
Furthermore, what exactly does the Bible have to say about such celebrations? In the Old Testament we find many yearly festivals celebrated that always served as reminders to God’s chosen people, such as Passover, etc. But after Christ, the only command to repeat any such “celebration” for the purpose of remembering was that of what we now call communion – “do this in remembrance of me.”
In Galatians 5, Paul advises:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
He’s talking to the Galatians specifically about circumcision and how futile it is now that Christ has come. In fact, in verse 2 he warns that if they allow themselves to be circumcised, then Christ will not be “of value” to them. Why? Because they are trusting in the Law rather than a Savior. Then, in verse 6, he offers this truth:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
The outward acts that made up so much of the OT Law no longer matter! What matters is that faith relationship we have because of Jesus. When we read even further on in this chapter, we find once again that the only thing that matters is love:
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
It seems to me that in gray areas that the Bible doesn’t specifically address, there is grace. Because of Christ, we have freedom from human regulation. The most important thing is not what we “do” in that regards, but in how we love, through faith – each other, as well as the lost.
Since the Bible does not take a crystal clear stance on the celebrating of specific holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so forth we finally decided to err on the side of grace in this gray area.
So, for a few years, we allowed our children to trick-or-treat at select locations, usually church events around town (for safety reasons).
We took the opportunity to discuss why Halloween can be an evil day, depending on how it is celebrated. We talked a lot about good vs. evil and how the spiritual realm is real and present, but that we need not fear it because “God is bigger than the boogeyman” (to steal a line from the Veggietales tune).
Then, a few years ago, my husband decided to return to full-time ministry as the pastor of a small, country church.
And one of the things we decided to do as an outreach event in our new-to-us, small-town community was to host a trunk-r-treat event. If you haven’t heard of trunk-r-treats, people line up their opened car trunks, decorated in various themes, in a parking lot or downtown, and hand out candy from their trunks instead of from their homes. For our small church, it was a big deal!
The big night arrived, cold and wet.
We drove to the downtown parking lot we had chosen for the event, spirits high in spite of the bad weather. The sprinkling slowed a bit to a slight mist and trunks began to open as we set up our decorations. We had Star Wars themed trunks, farm trunks, and even one trunk that looked like a giant mouth with razor-sharp teeth!
Then the costumed families began to arrive, and for an hour and a half, we had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters. We smiled at them. We gave them candy. We served hot drinks in the unseasonably cold weather.
We told parents about our children’s program and youth group. We laughed at inventive costumes. We invited them to fellowship with us. We handed out gospel literature. And eventually, we actually ran out of candy!
In the weeks that followed, we saw very little tangible results from our first trunk-r-treat. No new families stopped by our church to visit. Some might even call it a failed outreach event.
But that event marked the beginning of a slow change in that church, a willingness to start thinking outside of the “church” box. They began to see, with fresh eyes, the lost in our community. They realized that even small churches can serve in big ways!
This year will be our second attempt at the trunk-r-treat event. I hope we will reach even more of our community. We plan to utilize the Pumpkin Gospel object lesson to demonstrate the gospel in visual form (kids love stories!). Whether or not it’s the best way to deal with a historically evil holiday, I know the Lord sees past the exterior to the desires and the motives of our hearts. I hope what our children take away from this in the future is that Halloween is a day to remember that we live in a fallen world. Evil is real, but so is God. We have a light to shine in the darkness!
So, maybe, just maybe, making the right choice for Halloween is not so much about the details of how we “celebrate” but the why behind it. And any day with Jesus as the focus is a good day, in my opinion.
I just have to wonder what satan thinks about a bunch of Christ-loving people hijacking his evil day in an attempt to demonstrate the gospel to an entire community?
If sinners can be redeemed, and Christmas can be redeemed, and Easter can be redeemed…..
then maybe Halloween can, too?
And if the best way for you to overcome evil is to follow convictions about abstaining, then by all means, follow your own convictions! It’s okay for the Body of Christ to disagree on how to best glorify the Lord on this one day, really it is.
Perhaps the best way to be a light in the darkness is to quit biting and devouring one another and focus on loving each other instead.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”