Written By Tyler Edwards, USA
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He has served in full-time ministry since 2006. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is also the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ.
God has made us all in His image. And since all of us are His marvelously unique designs, we often see a difference in opinions—even among Christians. That can be a challenge, since the Bible does not clearly express how we should act in every situation. Instead, the Bible is focused on presenting the gospel. It gives us principles for how to live, but how we apply some of those principles may vary. Things get tricky when Christians come to different, often passionate, conclusions. Take for example, Halloween.
Halloween is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in America. People dress up in costumes, go to parties, and talk to neighbors they’d otherwise ignore. Kids run up to houses chanting “trick or treat,” expecting to receive plenty of candy.
But Halloween is often controversial in Christian circles because of its pagan origins. Should we embrace it or boycott it?
The truth is, many Christians come to totally different conclusions, and that’s why Halloween can actually be an opportunity for Christians—it challenges us to learn how to deal with disagreements.
Let’s turn to Romans 14:13-19 as a guide:
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. 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. 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. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Some Christians want to celebrate the holiday and use it as a time to witness, share, connect, and build relationships with other people to create opportunity for sharing the gospel. That’s great. Others feel a strong conviction that they should not participate because they don’t feel right doing so. That’s great too. Hear this: neither choice is wrong.
What we get wrong is how we respond to the person who makes a different choice from us. Those of us who celebrate Halloween are wrong when we accuse those who abstain of being mindlessly legalistic, and those of us abstaining are in the wrong if we criticize those who celebrate without bothering to understand their intent.
Too often, we are quick to judge and slow to seek understanding. Jesus was the opposite. He calls us to be the opposite. If we don’t agree with what another Christian is doing, we have help. These five checks have helped me navigate, not just through the Halloween debate, but other disagreements with Christians also:
1. Examine Scripture. Before anything else, I should make sure my reason is supported by God’s Word and not just some tradition I grew up with.
2. Examine Scripture again. This time, I’m not looking at it from my angle, but from the other person’s. Does their behavior go against Scripture, or are there verses that support what they are doing, too?
3. Approach people gently, humbly, and in love. I don’t, as a Christian, have the right to make judgments in my mind about another person if I’m not willing to talk with them. If I don’t like or agree with what someone is doing, I need to talk to the person about it. Ask questions. Try to understand it from their point of view.
4. Examine Scripture again. Now that I know the other person’s perspective, I re-examine God’s Word to see if there was something I previously missed or didn’t understand.
5. Go to them again, in love. At this point, I might gently and humbly share with them my view, the Scripture that I’ve found which gives direction, and why I think they should consider changing their behavior.
Notice that sharing my opinion is the last step. Until I’ve really gone through the first four steps, I have no right to do step five. If I skip to it, I’m likely handling things with a judgmental attitude.
What’s important is that we shouldn’t become so wrapped up in debates that we fail to see the gospel opportunities in front of us. Halloween can be one such opportunity, both for ministering to strangers, as well as in how we, as Christians, treat one another.
If we do choose to celebrate Halloween, let us use this opportunity to focus on building relationships and connecting with other people. We can reach those whom Jesus loves, but who are currently outside of His Kingdom, and initiate conversations with people we normally wouldn’t.
Every day we have opportunities to do what God has called us to do. As the people of God, let’s be open to see every part of our lives as an opportunity to glorify God by sharing His gospel with the world. Isn’t that the summation of our mission? To draw all men to the kingdom of God?
But even as we plan our celebrations, we should also be sensitive to the convictions of other Christians who might not feel comfortable with the idea, and be careful not to judge people for their choice (Romans 14). Ultimately, whether or not we participate in Halloween is a personal decision, and whichever side you are on concerning Halloween (or any other issue), let’s prioritize unity in the body of Christ, and be open to engaging with each other and learning more about how we can love each other.