On Halloween Night Love Your Neighbor
Are you ready for the second largest national holiday of the year, Halloween? This question may come as a shock to you given that I’m a pastor of a conservative evangelical church. However, I want you to brace yourself for a moment.
I believe Halloween is the single greatest opportunity Christians have to love their neighborhood for Jesus.
Here is how I arrived at this conclusion.
Halloween and Kids
As a pastor, I’m naturally concerned that my children are raised in a home where the gospel is taught, and the God of the gospel is adored.
I also want my kids to understand the deeper things of life like beauty, truth, faith, and courage. And I work hard to be confident that these values are celebrated and pursued. As their father, more than anything, I desire to pass onto them a heritage of faith that will extend on to their children’s children. That’s how passionate I am about their upbringing.
So naturally I’m concerned about the cultural influences that I allow into our home, particularly those tied to the holidays.
One of North America’s social customs that has become a powerful institution is Halloween and the custom of Trick or Treating.
Each year, in the month of October, out come the decorations of goblins, witches, ghosts, and other ghoulish creatures. Suddenly we see skeletons of all varieties hanging from windows in office buildings and trees in our neighbor’s yards. In some extremes, even grotesque creatures are devilishly portrayed warning all those who pass by that a twisted genius lies behind the decorative scheme.
When my oldest daughter was younger, some of the images were very disturbing, even frightening. On her behalf, I remember feeling frustrated and even self-righteously proclaiming how “evil” some of the decorations seemed.
But as time went on, my daughter and her siblings began to age and even express delight in the season. They started to look forward to “Trick or Treating,” mainly because they knew they would gather gobs of candy.
So I felt caught between trying to point my kids to the beauty and goodness of life and the often grotesque reminder of death portrayed during the Halloween season.
Halloween and our Neighbors
That all changed for me after I enrolled in seminary.
I remember heated debates about whether or not Evangelical Christians should participate in Halloween activities. Arguments would rage on both sides. Opponents of Halloween would rattle off statistics about the number of children abducted, links to occult practices, the celebration of Satan and the pagan origins of the holiday. Advocates would counter with the Christian redefinition of the season with the intent of “All Hallows Eve” and its precursor to All Saints Day.
I eventually observed that both sides of the debate were indeed correct and it is hard to choose one side over the other. After all, if we took our faith seriously, doesn’t Halloween seem to celebrate sin?
My view of Halloween drastically changed one year based upon the comment of an international student. He simply had this to say:
“Halloween is the only time of year where Americans intentionally open up their homes to their neighbors.”
Think about his observation for one moment. Name another holiday of the year where the shared neighborhood custom is to open up your home or apartment to your neighborhood. So do we want to be the ones where our doors are closed?
I can’t think of one single day.
Consider this point for just a moment. On Halloween night, the creepiest evening of the year, instead of locking our doors and boarding up the windows, we Americans open our homes and give out free stuff to mostly strangers. Name another time of year when this would happen.
It’s completely counterintuitive and shows the harmless nature of Halloween.
So what does all of this mean for the Christian?
In the second greatest commandment, Jesus explicitly taught that the Christian was to love your neighbor as yourself. One way to live this out is on Halloween night participate in your neighborhood’s celebrations.
So I believe there is a missional mandate to take a look at how we respond to Halloween. While the pagan origins of the holiday are indisputable, Christians throughout history have always adopted pagan traditions and Christened them for kingdom witness. And I think it’s time for us to Christen Halloween again. So this season, go out and buy the best candy you can afford. Turn on your porch light. And love your neighbor as yourself.