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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s the month of October again and you know what that means: long and exhaustive exposés, and debates, on why or why not Christians should participate in Halloween, and all from the comfort of your own living room. I think at some point we have all entertained this subject and, mainly, because it’s an easy target. Honestly, I think many of us are just sick of the whole conversation.

We get it: Halloween is satan’s playdate with the world and to participate in such an event is tantamount to satan-worship (LOL).

In this entry I’m not intending to criticize people’s personal convictions or lack thereof. I have been involved in this conversation before and, upon reflection, I wish I was more concerned about more significant issues. For example, is what you or I think someone else should be doing more important than how we’re treating one another? It’s a mysterious thing when someone will deride another person in the name of righteous anger. In an attempt to be “righteous” we end up becoming unrighteous in our conduct. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at times. I know I definitely have many times, and it’s wrong. In fact, it’s far worse than getting some candy on October 31 and it’s so easy on social media, very easy.

Here are some things I thought about on the subject:

(1) IF YOUR CHILD DOESN’T PARTICIPATE, THEY REALLY AREN’T MISSING ANYTHING

I know of people who are dead-set on ensuring their children experience everything possible in this world. They either were unable to do something and feel deprived, so they want to allow their children to experience it, or there’s an idea out there, which people really believe ,that if our kids aren’t doing what others are they will be misfits in some aspect of their life. Let me just say that both notions are nonsense.

I was never allowed to participate in Halloween growing up and guess what? I made it through my childhood somewhat normal and I really didn’t miss out on anything. My parents bought us enough candy throughout our childhood to last us a lifetime, anyway. A kid’s life won’t be ruined if they don’t go trick-or-treating. At the end of the day, corporate America just wants us to spend our money on another stupid “holiday.” So, if you feel convicted about putting your kids in a costume and giving them candy somewhere, then that’s fine. Don’t participate. No one will hate you for it. Now, if you attempt to place your convictions on others, then that might be an issue.

(2) PARTICIPATING IN HALLOWEEN ISN’T THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

I know this might be hard for some to grasp, but putting our kids in a costume and giving them candy isn’t blasphemy. I understand that people talk about the historical roots Halloween has in all sorts of horrible things. I understand that many people don’t want to engage in something that might have these types of connotations, but all those things, in my opinion, are irrelevant.

God is King over everything, especially His people. He is not subject to something’s horrible past and He doesn’t need our help in leading His people into right conduct. He is more than capable of convicting His people of sin and leading them in the right direction. This, in fact, is the very definition of sons and daughters of God and the assurance that people are actually His sons and daughters (Rom. 8:14; Heb. 12:5-11).

Throughout the New Testament Paul is forced to address the division caused by some who were unaffected by eating meat offered to idols and others who were convicted of such a practice. Romans 14, in my opinion, is the greatest work of Paul on how to work through similar issues within Christ’s body.    There the Apostle Paul speaks about Christians passing judgment on Christians for what they do or don’t do. His conclusion was that we should worry about ourselves (with non-essentials) and cease to worry about others because “each of us will give an account of himself to God” and “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.”

This doesn’t mean we should just do whatever we want and forget the rest. For those who are free in their conscience to do certain things, Paul instructs them to live in such a way that does not cause another in the body to stumble, or have a hindrance in their faith and our mutual relationship. Paul writes, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.” In other words, we should put the needs of others before our own interests (Phil. 2:3-4).

In a world essentially run by social media, this is very difficult. We have the opportunity to make Christians we’ve never even met stumble in an instant. So the question is: if we feel free to participate in Halloween, how should we handle it? Maybe it isn’t necessary to post every little thing we or our family does (guilty!)?

On the flip side, those who do feel convicted about participating in Halloween should ask themselves if it is necessary for everyone on the planet to know their dissatisfaction with those who do participate. I struggle with this so much, and maybe it’s because our culture has done a wonderful job creating  a planet full of complete narcissists, but I often have to ask myself, “Does what you think actually matter?” The answer is, NO. Even what I write in this blog doesn’t matter, and I shouldn’t take myself that seriously. What does matter is the Gospel.

(3) WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

I think what is most important in this whole issue is how it affects our life-presentation of the Gospel. To put it simply, how does what I say or do, or what I don’t say and don’t do, affect the proclamation of the Gospel in my life? For example, if I am against participating in Halloween, how does turning off all my lights and ignoring my neighbors help in Gospel proclamation? Or, if I do participate in Halloween, how should I participate and what should I wear? If I decide to decorate myself or my house in unseemly ways, how does this further the Gospel?

The center of our entire life should be the Gospel. What we say, where we go, and how we dress and act should have a Gospel-centric purpose. This means that in every aspect of our life, no matter what it is, we should be living and speaking in ways that point people to the Gospel. Do we do that or even consider it?

Furthermore, we, as God’s people, have a responsibility to love our neighbors, which means treating everyone with respect and dignity, and leaving our personal judgments at the door. Instead of being overly concerned with what others are doing, maybe we should be concerned with how others are doing. I’ll bet you that if we live Gospel-centric lives and treat others in Gospel-centric ways that God, by the Holy Spirit, will do His work – He will save and He will sanctify. Just remember that His work is not to make people into who you or I see fit. He does HIS work, not ours.

(4) PERSON, PLACE, AND THING

Now, I am not saying that there is no place for correction with these types of issues. Some people use their liberty as an excuse to do whatever they want, which is not okay. Our liberty should compel us to be responsible, which means considering others before ourselves, and it should cause us to remember the One we represent, which should result in righteous living. When Jesus said, “Do not judge” He did not mean that Christians could never confront other Christians on issues of conduct and lifestyle. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, tells us in 1 Corinthians that Christians should judge other professing Christians based upon their conduct (1 Cor. 5:9-13). If we profess Christ, we are open to correction from other believers because true conversion results in a new heart, which creates a new lifestyle. If our lifestyle doesn’t match the Lord we profess, then we are open to judgment and correction from His people, namely those in authority (Elders). “Do not judge” doesn’t mean there’s no accountability.

Facebook and Twitter, however, are not appropriate or effective venues to give correction if it is needed, especially when there are those prone to providing “correction” whenever the wind blows. I think we need to be wise about how we approach correction, meaning that we should consider if we are in a position with an individual personally where they will even consider what we say to them.

I think it would be beneficial to realize that blasting someone in public holds little promise. Social media kamikaze attacks never work, and they’re usually about getting our opinion noticed rather than actually caring for an individual. Paul instructs Timothy that “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24, 25),” leaving it to God to “grant them repentance.” Remember, God is in charge. He uses us, but He doesn’t need us, and sometimes we overestimate our value in bringing people to repentance. We really just need wisdom, and should ask for it (James 1:5).

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 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.”

~Romans 14:1, 3-4~

 

 

 

 

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