Jesus' Costume

I read a post to FB this morning that has inspired me to share an apologetic on why I believe Halloween for Christians is something to consider.  I think that if Jesus were here in bodily form, He would be out there with us.  Besides, He likes the whole idea of costumes...remember that one time He came into the world dressed like a person?  How great was that!  And then when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration and Peter, James, and John saw Him without His costume...what a day!  I'm convinced too His teaching about what goes into our mouths doesn't defile us.  I wish I had better Bible knowledge as a child...I would have shared that text with my parents on Halloween and Easter when they said I couldn't have any more candy!

The post I read had a great point.  Let's stop comparing Christians celebrating Halloween with Christmas and Easter.  Those aren't fair comparisons.  I agree.  Although many Christian holidays have pagan influences, Christmas and Easter are now fully Christian.  There are no other two holidays more sacred to Christians than Jesus' birth and His resurrection.  Even if their origins have to own some fault for pagan assimilation, today those holidays have one focus for us as devoted followers of Jesus...Him!  We cannot let the history that is behind us rob us of the opportunity we have to make the history that is before us!  And the history that is before us is desperate for devoted followers of Jesus to glorify His name!  From someone who has been in pastoral ministry since 1999, people turn their attention to God on those two holidays!  I know the Holy Spirit is always working in every life to bring them to Jesus and those two holidays create moments for His seeds to find good soil!

I believe people's reluctance to celebrate whatever you want to call 10/31 is born out of two streams of thought.  The first is that it violates someone's conscience.  I understand that.  We all need to understand that.  Scripture is clear in it's division of sin.  There are moral issues.  Those things that are wrong for all people for all time, without exception.  There are matters of conscience which are things that are wrong for one person but not for someone else.  The Apostle Paul used certain dietary restrictions as an example of this.  Then there are forgoing liberties.  This is where the Apostle Paul, on more than one occasion, talks about our need as Christians to forgo liberties if in exercising that liberty we may cause another to stumble in temptation.  For example, if you are having dinner with a recovering alcoholic, you should not have that favorite glass of wine with your meal.  This is the first reason there is conflict with Halloween, in two ways.  The first way is found in the name used.  We don't avoid the use of "Halloween" because we are ashamed of our activities.  We don't use that name because we don't want to unnecessarily offend.  This isn't being politically correct or white washing our's being sensitive to others which quite frankly needs to be more abundant in the Christian community!  The second way is that people who don't celebrate Halloween because it violates their conscience need to be respected, honored, and celebrated.  But those same people need to stop trying to justify their abstaining by making this a moral issue.  I have a definition of unity I like to teach.  Unity is when absolute commonalities transcend relative dissimilarities.  We need to agree on absolutes and hold them in common.  We also need to agree on what is relative and embrace how we are dissimilar.  When we force those things that are relative (matters of conscience and forgoing liberties) into the category of morality, we create legalism.  When we force those things that are absolute into the category of relative, we create permissiveness.  If you have come out of a background of the occult, some sort of satan worship, or used to get falling down drunk and stupid on Halloween and celebrating that day now in any way, even if your celebration now is wholesome, creates a feeling of conviction in your heart then most certainly, respect your conscience!

This post I read today also used comparison like orgies or naked group dancing around a fire...all pagan practices.  That we would not do those things and defend them as Christians.  No we wouldn't. I prefer to do my naked fire dancing in private...just kidding!  I can't even dance clothed!  But just in the same way you don't like unfair comparisons like with Christmas and Easter, neither do we.  All those examples in and of themselves are immoral.  Sex outside of marriage, sexual immodesty...all of those are wrong regardless of the reason.  Halloween for Christians who are celebrating community, having fun as a family, reaching out to their neighbors, using it to tell people about Jesus like we do at City Life...those are all virtuous, noble Christian actions.  Just because other people are using this night to celebrate evil does not undermine why we are celebrating.  Just because it is historically evil also does not taint the virtuous reasons we celebrate today.  If anything, because other people are using this night to celebrate evil is all the more reason we should be out there celebrating righteousness and life fully devoted to Jesus!  Those comparisons are born out of a need for people who have a legitimate matter of conscience objection but want to press it inappropriately into the category of morality.

Okay, here is the second stream of thought among Christians about Halloween.  As I was reading the Bible this morning, I found myself in Luke 14.  The chapter begins with Jesus healing on the Sabbath much to the anger of the religious leaders there.  These conflicts with Jesus and the religious establishment were related to what is referred to as traditions of the elders.  These were restrictions that were not specifically called for in the Mosaic Law but were born out of rabbinical interpretation. For example, because working was prohibited in the Sabbath, a person with a tooth ache could not rinse their mouth with vinegar and spit it out because that would be practicing medicine and is working.  You could however rinse and swallow because that fell under the category of eating.  There were limits on how far you could walk...which is why you find in Scripture the phrase "a Sabbath days journey" to communicate distance...people of Jesus' day knew how far that would be, based on these traditional restrictions.  Jesus' frustration with the religious establishment was that they viewed God as a God who took pleasure in denial.  This same view point gave birth to the failed experiment of Monasticism.  Does God have boundaries...yes!  But His boundaries are only for the purpose of releasing us into more liberty!  Wasn't it Jesus who said in John 10 that He came so we could have life to the fullest possible measure?  Many Christians today find an unhealthy fulfillment in denial.  I'm all for denial that is virtuous.  But I would humbly suggest that many of the people who feel the need to take hard stance against Christian families having fun tonight in an effort to honor God would have complained about Jesus violating the traditional Sabbath, not following washing rituals, parties He attended, and disciples He chose.  Liberty is a celebrated virtue of Christianity and one that we must not lose.

I hope this helps bring some clarity to why people can't seem to agree on this issue.  We don't need to agree...that is a beautiful aspect of the Christian faith that makes Jesus so very different from the rest!

Pastor Fred