How To Celebrate Halloween

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-1-2020

Like most days in the year, Halloween is a day filled with contentious debate. Although this isn’t necessarily everybody who finds the day controversial, but rather Christians who have quite the beef with this day in particular. Yet when examined further, we find that these assumptions about this day of the dead remain buried by the fact that it’s simply not pagan (2). For instance, it’s origins are steeped in the traditions of French and Irish Christians that mixed their cultures with other cultures into the melting pot that is America.

Regardless, a more important question comes up when these holidays within our respective cultures arrive to be celebrated once again. How should we celebrate these holidays? As Christians or believers of other faiths, how should we approach the holidays? More specifically, how should we approach Halloween?

Earlier this month, I was talking with a friend over the phone about Halloween and how it’s okay to celebrate it as Christians. We discussed a lot beyond that, but I’ll just share what I talked with him about on how to approach Halloween. What we centered our conversation on was three key questions.

What is Christian?

The first question is what is Christian? With this question, I wanted to guide the dialogue to the Bible and how Christians have always approached holidays respectively. This first question can be done within any respective religion as well.

For Christians, a key biblical text is Colossians 2:8-23 and how because of the substance of Christ’s sacrifice these cultural celebrations are now merely symbolic if anything to the believer. They went from days of religious repetition to righteous remembrance. We are not obligated to repeat these traditions, but rather we now get to remember what these traditions mean to the Christian faith.

On Christmas, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Resurrection Sunday, we get to remember how Jesus rose on the third day after paying the debt of sin with his death. Again, look at Colossians 2:14-17 one more time: “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” From a biblical vantage point, it matters more why we celebrate holidays than how we celebrate holidays. With that in mind, how we celebrate still matters and that ties into the second question. But for now, always ask yourself why before you ask yourself how.

What is Cultural?

The second question is what is cultural? For this one, we focused a lot on the nitty-gritty of how we celebrate holidays. I’ll just bring up one point we discussed during this second question. When it comes to how we celebrate, is there a way to know what’s worth celebrating?

In my favorite passage in the Bible for ministry, Paul writes that we should “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (3).” In other words: test everything, embrace good, and avoid evil. Now let’s apply that filter to Halloween.

With all of these customs and traditions, we just can’t celebrate everything. I mean, there’s some pretty dark activity done on Halloween and some great fun too. Does that mean we stop celebrating Halloween because bad stuff is done on that day? No, you just don’t do the bad stuff. Let me explain.

Traditionally every October 31st, kids and parents go door-to-door to collect candy in costume as they say “trick-or-treat” to their neighbors. Has this always been the tradition though? No, not at all.

The costumes are originally a French Christian tradition to honor those who have died, the date is relatively new compared to other holidays, and the involvement of parents is in direct response to the Black Halloween of 1933. This was when teenage boys caused so much vandalism nationwide in America in response to the Great Depression that cities considered banning the holiday altogether before giving it a family-friendly revamp (4). So the Halloween you know today is not even historically accurate.

Truthfully, the modern celebration of Halloween is just like Coca-Cola. The original was way more dangerous and fun, but now it’s a watered-down cash grab that has brainwashed you into thinking it’s good because you have so much nostalgia for it. Put in simple terms, All Hallows’ Eve is now just a hollow shell of its former self.

So now what? Well, celebrate it. It’s a great custom that brings communities and families together. If we’re being honest, is there anything remotely morally reprehensible about a kid dressing up as their favorite superhero and collecting candy? Not in the slightest.

But if you want to go holier than thou, then what if a kid in remembrance of Chadwick Boseman dresses up as Black Panther to honor one of those who has gone before us and who in fact was a Christian too. That’s faithfully sticking to the roots of Halloween. On the other hand, the standard celebration usually has some adult woman laced up in a slutty cat costume in the hopes of getting some action with her toxic ex at a party that looks like a high school reunion, but with more botox and booze. Then again, to each their own.

At the end of the day, reject all of the bad done on Halloween or any day for that matter and embrace the good. Learn about the holiday, adopt the customs that are good, and then avoid the bad. You can even choose not to celebrate altogether which is totally fine too, but that leads into the final question.

What is Convicting?

Lastly, what is convicting? After all of this information and knowledge has been discussed, it’s still your choice whether or not you are comfortable celebrating any holiday. Convictions are not meant to be advertised to all, but they are meant to be respected when in the company of others who know of said convictions.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul dissects the idea of liberty into two compatible halves: knowledge and love. We all have varying degrees of knowledge and love that combines into your current convictions. That’s why every conviction is different from person-to person. Some of us eat meat and some of us don’t. But what matters most is being aware of your convictions and when aware of other people’s convictions, being the better person and honoring their commitments to a conviction as well.

Paul points this out when he writes: “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (5).” If you want your convictions to be valued, then you must value the convictions of others. This value is found in the active balance of knowledge and love.

Without love your conviction is prideful and without knowledge your conviction is pointless. Therefore, find the balance between what you know and what you love. For the Christian, this love is Christ. For the non-Christian, it’s anything but Christ. If you as a Christian have a conviction that is not Christ-centered, then you have bastardized your own behaviors and beliefs.

When we were nearing the end of our conversation, we ironically pointed out our different convictions of food. My great friend is convicted about eating pork, while I am a simp for lime pork street tacos. With that knowledge in mind, I can now love my friend by not eating pork around them. If my friend doesn’t eat meat, then I don’t need to either when I’m with them for their sake. What divides us should never get in the way of what unites us.

I have the conviction to take time every Halloween to read up on the Protestant Reformation because the anniversary just so happens to land on the very same day. It’s a tradition I’ve made for myself and I will repeat it every year. Then again, I do also enjoy spending time with others doing more traditional Halloween customs. Either way, I choose to celebrate Halloween. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/fu-5BmAzbrU
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)
  4. https://www.history.com/news/halloween-haunted-house-great-depression
  5. 1 Corinthians 8:8-12 (NASB)

The Laws of the Kingdom: Love God + Love Others | 2-20-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-8-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the kingdom of God. This too was parallel to our church’s main series as well.]

Intro

For the last several weeks, we have been talking about our identity and role in the kingdom of God. This study has included life with Jesus, how to worship in the Spirit, and last week when Andrew taught about the works of the Father. This week we’ll talk about the laws of the kingdom of God and what it looks like to obey these laws in our own life.

In every kingdom, there is a set of laws. Every country, nation, and tribe has a list of rules that they live by and which make them distinct from all other places. In the movie Black Panther, also known as the Live-Action Lion King, the nation of Wakanda has a series of laws and rules that they live by as a country. One of those laws is that anyone that is in the bloodline of the royal family can challenge the current king for the throne. Another law is that they are an isolationist country, which means that they do not aid in foreign affairs and/or help other countries around the world. They choose to isolate themselves and avoid conflict.

Laws of the Kingdom

Just like Wakanda and every other nation, the kingdom of God has laws too. Unlike all of these other countries though, the kingdom of God only has two laws. Let’s turn to Matthew 22:36-39 to see what those laws are in the kingdom of God.

[After reading Matthew 22:36-39] So this lawyer guy shows up and is like, “Jesus, my dude. What is the most important law in the kingdom of God?” To which Jesus responds pretty point blank with to love God and to love others. The two laws of the kingdom of God are to love God with everything you’ve got (i.e. body, mind; soul) and to love others equally to the way that you treat yourself.

Reactive Love vs. Proactive Love

Another way to think about these two laws is that to love God is reactive, while to love others is proactive. When we know God, we know His love and this love is awesome. It gives us meaning, purpose, and value as one-of-a-kind creations made to change the world. This love of God is beautiful and life-changing. It’s amazing what God has given us! In response to this love of God, we can really only react with gratitude.

Like I said last time, God’s grace leads to our gratitude. This gratitude is evident when we react in prayer, reading the Bible, and worship. These are all ways that we react to God’s love. In response to God’s love, we react with loving gratitude.

To love others is proactive. We proactively love others. We do this by befriending our enemies, helping the homeless, serving at church, and so on. In short, God’s active love moves us to a reactive love, which then motivates us to a place of proactive love for others. We love God with our heart, mind, and soul because of His love for us.

Let’s recap what we just covered before we move onto the next idea. God’s active love moves us to reactive love, which then motivates us to a place of proactive love. We love God because he first loved us and just like the Golden Rule, we love others the way we want to be loved. How does this look in real life? What does love in action look like?

Love In Action

Back in 5th grade, I had a friend who was gay that was bullied constantly by our classmate Dennon. Now Dennon was a big kid and he was an angry one too who bullied all the kids at school, especially my friend for being gay. This bugged me a lot in 5th grade and I didn’t know how to help my friend. I remember that I asked God how I could help my friend and God told me to become Dennon’s friend. God told me to love my enemy.

So after a lot of hesitation, I made an attempt at school to be friends with Dennon. He pushed me away and made fun of me. I went back to God and asked for another way to help my bullied friend that night in prayer. God gave me the same response: love your enemy.

I tried again, but this time I did things differently. I sat next to him at lunch for the first time and the same thing happened. Dennon made fun of me and my bullied friend as soon as we got there at the lunch table. Back then, I had a shorter fuse and would blurt things out in a way to get back at people.

When Dennon bullied us, I responded back with a witty one-liner that was supposed to hurt his feelings. Instead, it did the opposite! He instantly started laughing so hard he started crying and before you knew it, everyone at that table was the best of friends. Even to this day, Dennon is one of my oldest friends and when we can find the time we hang out to this day. By choosing to love my enemy, I made a new friend. By following the laws of the kingdom, I saw what life is like in obedience to Jesus.

Evident Love

Still confused on how reactive love and proactive love works in your life? No worries! Let’s look at what Paul the Apostle writes in the book of Galatians. Here in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes about how Christians bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how this is directly related to the laws of the kingdom of God. Basically, how we know that someone is a Christian versus someone who is not a Christian. We judge them by their fruit. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Now there’s two main ways to understand this fruit of the Holy Spirit as Christians. The first way is to think that because the fruit of the Spirit is singular and not plural, then the fruit of the Spirit should be thought of as an all-or-nothing sort of situation. You either have all of it or none of it. The other way we can understand the fruit of the Spirit is to think that everything listed is in chronological order or from first to last. So from God we get love. From love we get joy. From joy we get peace and on and on it goes down the line.

Outro

Either way, you will know if someone is Christian by their love. You will see the fruit of the Spirit in their life. To live by the laws of the kingdom is to love God and to love others. Let’s pray.

If you couldn’t tell or were unaware, this sermon was extremely rushed. When compared to the last sermon, Worship in the Spirit, this one was missing some key details. Not enough research was done during the prep stage, didn’t practice at all, and the message suffers from this lack on self control to get it done right.

Given the circumstances, it’s why the sermon is filled with a lot of stories, yet not a lot of Scripture and zero quotes from others. When doing the work of God, do it well and don’t waste the opportunity that God has given you to display the gifts you have to share for the benefit of others. They are and never were your gifts to waste in the first place. You represent God, so represent him with excellence. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/