On this day 494 years ago, in 1517 to be exact, the day before “All Saints” (or All Hallows Day) Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. As his words were written in Latin, the language of very few, I do not believe that he intended to start the revolution that he did. But his words were used by God to transform His people and His church. If you do not know very much about Luther, he led a fascinating life and is worth studying.
Anyway, fast forward to today, October 31st, 2011. Probably most people have never heard about the November 1st “All Saints Day” and do not know the origins of “All Hallow’s Even” – the night before when they used to pray for the souls of those who had died, feeling that those prayers would help their loved ones get to heaven, rather than recognizing their need for Christ. Today Halloween has often become a symbol of evil and of wickedness that seems to be permissible for one night. So, what’s a Christian mom to do?
I have fond memories of Halloween as a child, particularly of our stops at our neighbor Winona’s house. I cannot have a glass of hot apple cider or see “travel kleenex” without thinking of her – she always handed out more than just candy. I continued to trick or treat there well into high school, just because I loved going to visit her and maybe felt like I needed an excuse. I am not sure if my parents just protected us somehow, but Halloween was simply a time of costumes and candy. Maybe commercialism has invaded Halloween now – I certainly do not remember seeing decorations on so many houses or whole stores devoted to Halloween.
Many families do not have a problem with Boo at the Zoo or trick or treating, and they buy tons of candy to hand out. Many families have chosen not to have anything to do with Halloween and instead have harvest parties orchoose to hang out in their basements on trick or treating nights. So, who is wrong? In my opinion, neither of them, at least on the surface.
Certain issues have always divided people, even believers. In Paul’s day, it was meat that was had been offered to idols. To serve it or not to serve it? That was the question. (If you want to know more, read I Corinthians 8-10). In our day, there are many issues that can divide us. The Bible doesn’t address whether or not you should take your kids trick or treating. But, it does give us basic guidelines on how to live and what to think about (Ephesians 5:15-20, Philippians 4:8 and I Peter 3:9-11 are just a few of the Bible sections that address lifestyle choices). I think for believers the key word is “choice.” We need to PRAY and think about God wants for our family, rather than just going along with what the culture does or trick or treating just because all of our friends are. Ponder and pray, then plan accordingly. When you read through that passage in I Corinthians, it is surprising to realize that Paul did NOT condemn eating meat offered to idols. But he does emphasize that what matters is the convicti0ns God places on your heart and also how you respond to others and their convictions.
When is trick or treating wrong? When is not trick or treating wrong? When we look down on those who have a differing opinion. Discussing the issue is one thing – condemning others is a total other issue. If you know your friend doesn’t celebrate Halloween, don’t trick or treat at her house. If your friends tells you about her kids’ costumes, be interested even your own kids aren’t dressing up. And don’t gossip about those who ARE trick or treating or who AREN”T trick or treating. Respect other people’s choices. And that includes honoring them in our hearts – not thinking less of others if they are living differently than what we think is right. (That one is VERY challenging to me). Now obviously if another Christian is walking opposite of what the Bible preaches, we are called to gently challenge them. But unless it is a sin issue or a very clear cut command, I think we are called to grace.
As for our family, we decided to pick our battles. My husband’s family has always grandly celebrated Halloween and Santa Claus. Since I personally feel that Santa Claus distracts from Christ’s birth, he has never really been a part of our Christmas. But since dressing up the kids for Halloween is a BIG deal to my husbands’ family, so to respect them, our kids do trick or treat. (Give and take!) But I get to have some veto power on the costumes and on where we go for trick or treating – that part we can make sure is honoring to Christ. Last night at a friend’s costume party, I was the proud mother of 2 Woody’s, a Buzz Light Year and a bumblebee. Overall we had a fun night of fellowship with several conservative Christian families. (There were a few things though that were a bit more intense than how our family normally celebrates, so now we have a new avenue of discussion and determination for future years. Always a challenge to determine which way God is moving in our family!) Well, whether your kids are in costumes or whether tonight is just another night, most of all I hope you have a meaningful evening spending time together as a family.
P.S. PLEASE NOTE: this is the PERSONAL opinion of Gretchen Marie (Michels) Garrison – not of MOPS, First Free MOPs or First Evangelical Free Church. Please do not use this post to justify Halloween or to condemn it. I just was challenged again last night to think through my own personal convictions of Halloween and also my thoughts on others’ views of “acceptability.” So I just thought I would share my thoughts (for what it’s worth!)