When my daughter was a toddler, we dressed her up in her princess costume and went to our neighbour’s house on Halloween night. We weren’t trick-or-treating per se; we just wanted to visit with our neighbour and show off my daughter’s cuteness. She was excited at the promise of neighbourly candy.
As we walked up, my girl tripped and skinned her palms on the driveway. At the sound of her sobs, our neighbour ran out with her candy bowl to see what was happening.
“Oh no, sweetheart!” she said to my daughter. “Are you OK? Will a hug make it all better?”
My daughter, still heaving, swiped her arm across her snotty, tear-stained face, looked our neighbour in the eye, and said, “Candy will make it all better.”
And that’s when I knew — this kid would do just fine in life.
In sharing that story on social media that night, I was engaged by an irate woman from my church. In no uncertain terms, she made it very clear that Halloween was demonic, and she was shocked that I had participated in any way. My attempts to find peace were rebuffed, and I was unfriended that very night.
Perhaps some of you reading agree with her. Others may feel defensive on my behalf. And I’m guessing the majority are somewhere in between.
This topic has various views because the issue isn’t black and white. It falls in the realm of what the Bible calls a “disputable matter.” The term comes to us from the biblical letter to the Roman church, where Christians apparently argued over what they ate — could Christians eat whatever they wished, or did God limit our diets?
The apostle Paul writes:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
Apparently some Roman Christians limited their diets out of devotion to God. Others embraced their freedom in Christ to eat everything out of devotion to God. Both sides had a sincere conviction, and both sides believed that God backed them up.
And apparently, both sides were judging the other side, looking down on them with contempt.
A ”disputable matter” is an issue where Christians who love Jesus and revere the Scriptures can reasonably come to different conclusions on what the Bible means.
Each side can point to Scripture to support their views, and each side interprets or emphasizes Scripture differently.
Well-known “disputable matters” in the Church today include topics such as predestination, the role of women in leadership/teaching, the continuation of spiritual gifts (or not), the proper structure of church government, differing worship styles, and how the end-times will unfold, amongst many others.
Including, of course, Halloween.
Clearly, demons and witchcraft are evil, and no Christians should be actively engaging with them. On that point, there should be agreement. Beyond that, however, there are numerous opinions about the day.
For some, Halloween is a demonic holiday, a night rooted in darkness and witchcraft, and since we are to “have nothing to do with” darkness as Christians, we should not participate other than to fulfill our call as Christians to pray and stand against the enemy that night (Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:11; Colossians 1:13, etc.).
For others, whatever the demonic roots may have originally been, it has morphed into a fun and harmless kid-friendly cultural holiday. As long as Christians don’t actively engage the dark side, they can trust God and need not fear dressing up and giving and receiving some candy, and can engage with their neighbours and let their light shine as they do (Psalm 27:1; Matthew 5:16; John 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:7, etc.).
For still others, it is an opportunity for redemption — Christmas and Easter also had pagan roots originally, and the Church redeemed those holidays to celebrate Jesus. Many churches hold alternative events on Halloween that participate in the costumes and candy but also point to Christ and emphasize Him instead (Psalm 18:28-29; Psalm 139:11-122; 1 Corinthians 9:22-23; Colossians 1:19-20, etc.).
Wherever you land in those categories (or elsewhere), the word of the Lord is clear:
You must not judge or treat with contempt those on “the other side.”
The one who prayerfully abstains does so unto the Lord, and God is the only one who can judge His servant.
The one who safely participates does so unto the Lord, and God is the only one who can judge His servant.
The one who redeems for Christ does so unto the Lord, and God is the only one who can judge His servant.
By all means, discuss and debate (respectfully). Is the other side’s faith “weak?” Perhaps. But at the end of the day, the one who abstains from the holiday is not wrong; the one who celebrates the fun safely with their children is not wrong; the one who redeems it for Christ is not wrong.
The “wrong” happens when we begin to judge the other sides with contempt. Then, we are wrong. God is the only one who gets to do the judging here.
Whatever your views and whatever you and your family are up to this evening, hold to your convictions firmly, and live them out for the glory of God. As for those who disagree with you, leave them in the loving hands of the Lord, and enjoy your evening, however it looks.