With the prominent celebration of Halloween at the end of this month, perhaps a good topic for discussion among Christian evangelists would be the appropriate Christian approach to this observance. How should individual Christians and local churches handle this cultural clash of death and evil with the biblical principles of life and goodness? That’s what I’d like to discuss in this article.
Given that Halloween (which is a compound contraction of “all hallowed evening”) has been redirected from an occasion to prepare for hallowing departed saints leading up to All Saints Day on November 1st to an occasion of celebrating death and evil (signified by skeletons, zombies, witches, and devils), how can we Christians reclaim this date for life and goodness? While many churches have countered the culture with “harvest festivals” (which I think is a step in the right direction), others have merely changed the venue for children trick-or-treating in costumes that continue to celebrate evil while going house-to-house to going to church parking lots in those same costumes and calling it “trunk-or-treating”. Although meeting at the local church certainly provides a much safer environment for children to load up on all sorts of sugary snacks and an occasional apple, if we fail to keep Christ at the forefront it doesn’t do much to train them up in the admonition of the Lord, not to mention sharing the Good News about Jesus and His salvation for the non-Christian community at large. If a church merely opens up its parking lot for trunk-or-treating without sharing the Hope of Christ’s Salvation with those who come, how does that benefit either the community or the Kingdom of Christ? Kids go home with lots of candy, but the really sweet news of how to be saved and live a godly life is completely ignored. For that matter, if a church hosts a “harvest festival” for its community without sharing the Gospel with those who come, how does that benefit either the community or the Kingdom of Christ? Is it really ministering to the community merely to offer a safe alternative venue for observing a day to celebrate evil without requiring and demonstrating a contrast between good and evil, between righteousness and unrighteousness, and between life and death? In my personal opinion, I don’t think it does.
I realize this is a sensitive subject for some, and the last thing I want to do is come across as judgmental (for God alone is the Righteous Judge), so let me hasten to say that I understand that this is a personal decision for every parent and a collective decision for every church congregation. Nevertheless, as children of light, I think we Christians ought to point to life and goodness rather than joining in with the world in the celebration of death and evil.
Refraining from blending in with the culture is partly what the Apostle James meant when he wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27 NKJV). I think being “unspotted from the world” means not participating in or practicing the sins of the world, such as celebrating death and evil, no matter how innocuous it seems to let children dress up like goblins or witches and beg for candy from family, friends, and strangers alike.
It’s not easy to resist the temptation to join in with everyone else’s merriment in order to avoid being different, but being different is precisely what the word holiness implies. God has called His people to be different so that the world can see the difference and question us about it. I think this is actually what is behind the dress code and dietary restrictions for the people of Israel (long before they were called Jews) contained in the Mosaic Law. God wanted (and continues to want) His people to look and live differently from the rest of the world in order to demonstrate their separateness unto Him. While Christians are not under the restrictions of the Mosaic Law, we are called to be different nonetheless. Compare Exodus 19:6 with 1 Peter 2:9-10 and Leviticus 11:44 with 1 Peter 1:15-16; then, for good measure, read 1 Peter 4:17-18, too. Furthermore, whereas the people of Israel were called to spread the truth about God to the rest of the world (much like Christians have been called to do since the time of Christ), by the first coming of Jesus they had chosen instead to revel in the knowledge of being God’s Chosen People and became so focused on their separateness, generally speaking, that they refused to have any contact with non-Israelite people and even erected great religious and social barriers to prevent such contact. For the few proselytes that the Pharisees of Jesus’ time on earth did make, they completely skewed the truth about having a relationship with the living God and the salvation which He alone can provide. Jesus even addressed this when He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 NKJV).
Unfortunately, many Christians throughout the centuries since Jesus’s earthly ministry have followed the Pharisees’ example of either separating themselves to the point of having no contact at all with so-called sinners or of teaching new converts a strict legalism which neither saved their souls nor made them true disciples of Jesus Christ. We have an opportunity now to finally make the difference God has called us to make, to distinguish ourselves from the world by godly living while sharing the hope of salvation with all who will listen. However, if we are indistinguishable from the rest of the world because we are participating in their sins, our message of holiness sounds hollow, and it becomes even harder for us to call people out of their sins if we’re participating in those sins with them. In that case, our call for a celebration of a true Halloween becomes a Holloween!
Whatever your plans for observing this Halloween, I challenge you to distinguish yourself from the world and be a beacon of light for Jesus Christ. Offer the sweetest treat of all – a relationship with Jesus and an everlasting citizenship in His Kingdom.