This article was basically going to advise you against celebrating Halloween.
But as I was planning how to write that piece, I could already imagine the sort of push-back it would get: Wah, these Christians super trivial. Always want to push their laws — now even want to go horror nights also cannot? Super lame, lor.
I find writing such articles to be challenging: How do I write this so that it doesn’t sound preachy? How do I write this so that I’m not moralising but I’m sharing something true? How do I convince strangers that I do — in some unfathomable way — love them?
God help me. Christians already have a rep for being a this-one-cannot, that-one-cannot sort of people. And I agree; that sort of comment is warranted to a large extent. But I also think there’s more to following Christ than just saying no to a bunch of things.
THE HEART BEHIND THE WORDS
I’ll be frank about where I come from when I write. I never presume to be an authority issuing decrees; that’s not my place.
I read and I write because I want to tell people about God, beyond the zone of casual Christianity, and into something far more surprising, real and wonderful.
Whenever I write, I imagine I’m writing to a friend I love and care for. With friends whose opinions I value and decisions I respect, I always make sure to leave the ball in my friend’s court. I share what’s on my heart, but can never presume to force their hand. I value them – you – too much.
So, that’s the heart behind the words. Now if I was still writing an article about Halloween, I would refer us to the following verse:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
This is usually the moment, when Scripture has been quoted, where a lot of people switch off. I can sort of understand the exasperation and frustration that people – both Christian and non-Christian – might feel upon hearing this sort of prescriptive message.
So I’m pausing here to urge you sincerely: Please don’t write a Christian off or stop listening the moment he pulls the Bible out. Speaking for myself, the very last intention on my heart is to bash you with it.
Instead, I’d like for you to consider that it’s genuinely the reference by which I try to live. God knows how often I fail, but I thank Him for grace. I have found what I truly believe has proven to be the better way for me, and I just want to share it.
It ultimately boils down to what you want in your life. If you’re a Christian, that is, if you truly desire Christ and holiness — you will pick up your cross and deny yourself (Matthew 16:24). In reality, that will probably look like a life of inconvenience, often involving sacrificing things we love.
But we take these passions down from their pedestals not because a book or some obscure writer tells us to. We do it because we know the Father’s heart is full of love, and see that everything He asks of us is always for our benefit.
RELATIONSHIP BRINGS REALITY
Some of us have a picture of the Christian God as an angry father who withholds many things from His children. I’m not discrediting the experiences you’ve been through that may have given you such an impression of Him.
But my personal experience of God has produced a conviction that He wants only the best things for his children – even things we might not think are good. That makes me want what God wants. I’ve come to understand that without a relationship with the Lord, there can be no reality of love.
But to the unbeliever or cynical Christian, the Christian way of life inevitably ends up looking like a everything-also-cannot, legalistic religion.
What you want is really indicative of where you are: You’re either looking at a religion, or you’re in that relationship.
So, finally, back to Halloween. Good for a laugh, maybe, but when you celebrate it, you’re dipping your toes into all kinds of spiritual expressions which really, really can’t be good for you.
I think that’s the heart of Philippians 4:8 – if something clearly isn’t pure, noble or true, why not instead fill your mind to something that is?