a halloween on mission: how we respond to halloween (as exiles in a foreign land)
by: lisa fuller, shine director
As Halloween approaches each year, my news feed and the Christian blogs I follow fill up with ideas regarding how Christians ought to respond to Halloween. I have close Christian friends who are rather dogmatic about what the response should be. All of their opinions are different. I have found that there is a tendency to get pulled to an extreme, one side or the other. I have friends who turn their porch light off, sit inside of their home and pretend to not be there and who refuse to let their children participate in wearing costumes of any sort or attend school sponsored costume events. I have friends who will only allow their children to dress up if they dress as Bible characters and sit at home on Halloween handing out candy with evangelistic tracts attached. I have other friends who get into Halloween full scale complete with haunted houses, scary costumes, devils, witches, and ghosts, saying that it is just all harmless fun. There are many different responses that the Christian family is faced with at Halloween. You may have found yourself wrestling with this as a family.
At New City, our guiding statement is that we follow Jesus, on mission, in community. Our leadership deduces this statement straight from the Gospel, and the model of the church and Christian living that the New Testament details. So everything we do is filtered through this lens.
we follow jesus:
Jesus asks his disciples to, “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Matthew 19:21) In addition, 1 Peter 2:21 states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” We are to turn from everything else in our life and follow Jesus whole-heartedly.
We have been sent out to follow God’s mission to restore a world that is lost and broken. Jesus says in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In John 17:18 Jesus prays to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
The Bible tells us we have been born into a new family, a community of belonging. (1 Peter 1:22-23) The Word of God creates an enduring community life and love. Romans 15:7 reminds believers in Christ to “welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Halloween is a very obvious example of our struggle as Christians to live as exiles in a foreign land, to be “in the world, but not of the world.” In John 9:5 Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus is the light in the darkness. The world is made dark by evil and sin. As I walk through stores with my children this time of year, the décor easily reminds me of the dark and evil in this world. Fun party stores fill their shelves with scary, evil figures that can give anyone nightmares. Just a quick trip to the store shows us the world is dark. But Jesus is light. We can choose to follow Jesus during this time by being the light and glorifying all things good and holy. And so that is the response in our house. We choose to celebrate light. We avoid costumes and decorations that glorify death and evil, but rather that glorify God (light). I believe we follow Jesus in this posture. Jesus did not hide from the world . . . he shone light into it. We literally shine that light by turning on our porch lights on Halloween, all the lights in our house for that matter, and being the light in a night of darkness.
I have always been amazed at how desperate we say we are as Christians to reach the lost. Yet the one night that the entire neighborhood is out walking around, talking to neighbors, and knocking on our doors, we would choose to turn our lights off and pretend not to be home. What if, in following Jesus’ mission, knowing that he has sent us into the world as exiles who are blessed with community, we allow our neighbors to feel the love and warmth of community on Halloween?
In the last few years, New City’s response has been for our families to light up our houses, open our garages or sit outside on the front porch, with cider and coffee for adults and carnival games for kids to play. We pray for our neighbors and asked God to help us build relationships with them that would invite gospel conversations over time. We hope to create an environment for our neighbors to stay awhile and get to know each other. Every year there has been an overwhelming response of gratitude from our neighbors, simply because we gave a little extra effort to meet and have conversations with our neighbors and their families and just shine a warm light on our street. We do not hand out tracts; we do not set all of this up with a hidden agenda. We just simply choose that night to be light in a world consumed with darkness.
As you are wrestling this year with how you will respond to Halloween? If so, consider whether or not your response includes whether you’re following Jesus, on mission, in community.