This post certainly isn’t a slam on Christians who do the Halloween thing—I’m all for you dressing up, eating candy and having fun! Personally, I’m just not really into holidays. They sort of come and go around here—with exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hold more of the “to each their own” when it comes to celebrating holidays.
Halloween was nothing more than dressing up for some candy when I was growing up. Not much has changed since then—other than the fact that I am a Christian now. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that the celebration of Halloween has become far darker than it was 10+ years ago. I’m not sure if that is true, or if I’m simply running with Christians these days that are more sensitive than my old SEAL buddies. Maybe a little of both?
I’m preaching on Romans 14:1-12 this Sunday. This passage deals with how Christians should relate with one another concerning issues of opinion and conviction that the Bible doesn’t explicating touch on. I find that Halloween is one of these issues of opinion and conviction. I can’t tell you the origin of Halloween, nor I am interested in you telling me either. It is what you make of it.
That being said, I’ll never forget a Halloween when I was in Bible College. I had class that day and the church where the seminary is located was having a Harvest Festival—you know the Christian alternative to Halloween. I wasn’t upset that I was missing the holiday for class, but I was pretty annoyed that all the parking was taken up walking to class. When I arrived in the classroom, I was met with an uncomfortable situation. There was a middle-aged lady in the room weeping. Man, I wanted to leave the room as quick as I could, but she saw me—I was stuck.
I asked what was wrong to discover she was heartbroken that the church was doing a Harvest Festival for Halloween. Inside I thought she was making a big deal over nothing and should just grow up. Of course I didn’t say that, but I was thinking it. As the conversation unfolded, it turns out that this lady was raised a Pagan (literally) and Halloween was a day where they did a bunch of evil stuff. I was shocked to hear her tell her story. I learned the holiday was far more than pillaging candy to her as it surfaced very dark memories and the present reality for many in her family. This conversation changed my feelings on Halloween dramatically.
Fast-forward about 11 years to today. I still don’t make a big deal about this day. I’m not vocal about it…just sort of slips by without commentary on my part. I have an almost 8-year-old daughter who just hates this holiday. Where does it come from? I don’t know other than I believe she has a deeply sensitive conscience to spiritual things. Yesterday she came home from an event where the teacher said the kids could wear their costumes to class next week—which falls on Halloween.
I was sitting in my office when she approached me in anguish. She explained that she had a real problem and wasn’t sure how to handle it. The issue was that she didn’t want to get dressed up, she didn’t want to lie about why she won’t dress up, and she doesn’t want to condemn her friends. What should she do? I must pause to say that as a dad I am so proud of this little girl and her genuine walk with God. Seriously, these moments are super special for me to help her navigate life in this world. Nothing greater than being pastor-dad!
After she explained the problem, I shared with her the passage I was studying—Romans 14:1-12. I found it very relevant to the problem at hand as it gives some insight to how we as Christians should handle things like Halloween. Here are some points that I told her and I believe these apply to all Christians, regardless of your stance on Halloween.
Pray. First and foremost, I explained that she should pray and ask God for wisdom on how to handle this.
Heed your conscience. One’s conscience is a super special gift that God has given us. It’s not always right, but we shouldn’t make a habit of violating it because we can damage it. We laid out a bunch of options from going dressed up, not dressed up, not going at all, or making other plans. My main concern is that I want my daughter to recognize her conscience and to develop a plan on how to listen to it.
You answer ultimately to God. We so desperately want to fit in and be accepted by friends, but ultimately we must recognize that we cannot make others happy. So the best option is live your life in a way that you think pleases God the most. As this relates to Halloween, I can see a case for both sides. Whatever you do, it should be for God’s glory.
Be sensitive to others. You want to get dressed up? No problem, just be sensitive to others. This holiday may not be to them what it is to you. You want nothing to do with this holiday? Fine, don’t get dressed up, but be careful not to condemn others as it probably isn’t to them what it is to you.
There is some debate whether or not Augustine actually said these words, but I think they are an appropriate way to end this post, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”