This year, as with every other one, Halloween came and went. And again, the unholy holiday did nothing more and nothing less for the cause of Christ than any other day of the year.
Some Christians may have revelled in their liberty to let their kids dress up as Anna, Elsa, and Olaf. (Incidentally, except for the snow man the other characters in Frozen would, like their creator Hans Christian Andersen, have been Lutheran; apropos costumes for Reformation month!). They may even have carved toothy grins into a pumpkin or two.
Other Christians may have railed against the nefarious worldliness and ghoulishness inherent in the Catholic-turned-pagan carousing. Some probably contributed to the collective national insulin spike by dolling out assorted nutrition-free candies, while others likely distributed gospel tracts and toothbrushes to the dismay of their crestfallen trick-or-treaters.
So what? (Or in the ESV “What then?”)
It seems that every year this perennial discussion of liberty’s limits pops up like a whack-a-mole, only to reoccur eight weeks later with the flavor of controversy having something to do with Christmas trees and mistletoe. I’ve contributed to this in the past and probably will again in December. But my 2c will be the same every time because the holly wreath withers, the polyester costume fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever. And Scripture is not silent on these issues.
Here are some passages we should store with our Fall and Christmas décor boxes in the basement, so we can dust them off and re-apply them as a seasonal reflex:
- Romans 12: 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 14: 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
- 1 Corinthians 10: 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. … 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor… 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- 1 Corinthians 4: 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. … that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
- 1 Peter 2: 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Every believer must apply these verses for themselves. By definition, Christian liberty can’t be regulated by arbitrary rules for or against the use of that liberty. But in each situation each believer must exercise common sense, wisdom from the Spirit, in love for other believers, as a testimony to unbelievers. And we must refrain from judging other believers who make choices that make our skin crawl. If it’s sin, that’s a different story. But if God thought an activity was sinful, he’d say so in his word.
I leave you with Charles Spurgeon’s famous response to Dr. Pentecost’s comments from the pulpit against the “sin of cigar smoking.” It’s a bit extreme, but in his characteristically charming way Spurgeon addresses liberty in Christ with humor and candor.
If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, ‘Thou shalt not smoke,’ I am ready to keep it; but I haven’t found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it’s as much as I can do to keep them; and I’ve no desire to make them into eleven or twelve. The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. …Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I’m not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don’t feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.”