You know the routine. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sidewalks begin to teem with creatures great and small. Some travel in packs; others hunt alone. But sooner or later they arrive at your door, howling for satisfaction.
Halloween is upon us again, and with it come the issues that annually confound and divide believers. How can Christian families participate in the holiday without tarnishing their testimonies? As Halloween celebrations increasingly embody the world’s tastes for mischief and debauchery, are believers better off abstaining altogether?
The reality is Halloween presents us with an excellent opportunity to put into practice the principles we’ve discussed regarding what it means to be in the world but not of it. As we’ve seen in the last several days, God’s people are responsible to draw lines of separation from the world that protect their purity without withholding the truth from the watching world.
So what does that look like practically when it comes to Halloween? Without mimicking the world or chasing its approval, can believers redeem the day and reach others with the gospel?
In Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong, John MacArthur gives readers some practical advice for navigating life’s gray areas:
Though it is true that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention every possible decision you might face in life, it does address all choices with general principles and parameters that govern Christian freedom. When you run your choices in the gray areas through the following grid of seven biblical principles (drawn primarily from the book of 1 Corinthians, in which the apostle Paul gave detailed instructions on liberty issues), I trust you will find both clarity and true freedom to live your life to God’s glory. John MacArthur, Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2009) 17-18.
In a condensed format, here is the grid of biblical principles he mentioned, sometimes referred to as the “E’s of Decision Making.” (For a more detailed analysis of these principles, check out our blog series, Glorifying God in the Gray Areas.) When faced with a decision in one of life’s gray areas, Christians need to consider these practical questions:
Edification: Will this activity produce spiritual benefit?
Enslavement: Will this activity lead to spiritual bondage?
Exposure: Will this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?
Esteem: Will this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?
Evangelism: Will this activity further the cause of the gospel?
Ethics: Will this activity violate my conscience?
Exaltation: Will this activity bring glory to God?
Armed with those basic principles, every believer ought to be able to navigate the gray areas with integrity, protecting their consciences and testimonies without resorting to legalism, isolationism, and other unbiblical responses that can impede the progress of the gospel.
And perhaps that’s the most important principle of all—your Christian freedom is not primarily intended for your own enjoyment. Just like every other aspect of your life, your freedom is to be used to glorify God and magnify His Word.
So how do believers use their freedom in Christ to participate in Halloween in ways that exalt the gospel? In an article titled Christians and Halloween, Travis Allen, former managing director of Grace to You, tackled that very issue. I highly recommend you read the entire article, but the following is the pertinent portion for this discussion.
Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination—death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry—as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian’s ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.
There are several different ways Christians will engage in Halloween evangelism. Some will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As Christian parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities—listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives.
That response naturally raises eyebrows and provides a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It’s also important that parents explain their stand to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers.
Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals”—the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. It’s ironic when you consider Halloween’s beginning as an alternative, but it can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.
Even if you simply give out candy to the children passing through your neighborhood, there will be many gospel opportunities you won’t want to miss. Drop a tract in with each kid’s candy, or try to engage their parents in a conversation you can steer toward the things of the Lord. Maybe even invite the whole family to your church? Certain circumstances—like the makeup of your community and your living situation—will determine what kind of opportunities you have, but they will be there if you look hard enough.
For most believers, the situation is simple. Not long from now, dozens of unsaved people will be in your neighborhood, possibly even at your doorstep. For their sakes, and for the sake of God’s kingdom, don’t shut them out and ignore their spiritual needs. As the world celebrates darkness, do something—anything—to shine the light of the gospel in your community.