The question comes up every year around this time. How should followers of Jesus deal with this thing called Halloween?
You’re still reading, so you have some interest. But chances are you don’t want to read 5,000 words, so permit me to offer a short response.
Halloween (or, “Hallowed Evening” as it was originally) was celebrated in parts of Europe in anticipation of All Saints Day (November 1st), a time to remember saints and martyrs of the Christian faith. Some historians connect this celebration to pre-Christian, pagan rituals of honoring the dead and appeasing their departed spirits. If you dig deep enough you’ll find spooky, scary and downright evil stuff.
Fast forward to 2017. We not only don’t celebrate All Saints Day, most people don’t even know any saints. Or martyrs. Furthermore, we’re completely ignorant of ancient Celtic and Gaelic pagan rituals and beliefs. Halloween is about crazy costumes and copious amounts of candy. Period.
Which brings me to the meat part. Because in the early church there was a massive dispute about what kinds of meat could be eaten by Christians. You see it was common for pagans to offer meat to the idols of their religions. That meat was later sold in the local market at a reduced price.
Some Christians, particularly those who used to be part of those pagan religions, felt that this meat was polluted, and should not be eaten. In their minds, to eat that meat was to participate again in their old religious practices. But for others, they simply saw it as good, cheap meat. Since they had never believed in the pagan gods, they didn’t see the problem. They didn’t believe those gods were real, so there was no way they could affect the meat. Bon appétit!
Two very different views, often in the same church. And each group looked at the other and wondered, “what’s your PROBLEM?”
So Paul writes to these people with the following advice:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Our issue isn’t meat offered to idols. It’s a holiday called Halloween. Our “meat” is represented in the Halloween candy and costumes. Some principles to gather from Paul:
Accept one another, even with our differences
Respect those who differ with you on these matters
Don’t judge one another, or treat with contempt
Don’t let your actions cause someone to act in violation of their own beliefs
Act with love toward one another
Remember that the bigger picture is not Halloween, but the kingdom of God
Additionally, I would point out that some of the activities that surround Halloween are a celebration and/or representation of dark spiritual forces (demons, devils, etc.). There really is a spiritual enemy of God (satan), and he would like nothing better than for us to be deceived into thinking he doesn’t exist. That’s something to keep in mind. Here’s a helpful reminder from C.S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally please by both errors…
May this season be filled with joy, respect, understanding, and even some candy.