Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Post-October 31 Thoughts

Boy am I glad that's over! ;) For the past few years, the weeks leading up to Halloween have made me very sad, not because of Halloween itself, but because of satan's success at dividing the believers. In some ways, I think this might be the worst evil of Halloween... distracting us from our mission and setting us at odds with one another. I hate to see that. I don't know that I could really categorize myself as being on either "side" of the issue. Like with most things, I think I have a unique opinion and conviction, and I can only do what I feel that the Holy Spirit has led me to do. 

Anyway, I know several people who are feeling hurt and wounded since some Halloween "discussions" on Facebook. I also know several people who are bold and passionate about sharing their convictions, and I absolutely respect that. I am the same way about all sorts of things. I have hurt and offended more than my fair share, and I have had ample opportunities to humble myself, apologize for the wound (regardless of the fact that my conviction was unchanged), and pursue unity. Social networking really stinks sometimes. (The irony of my making this statement in a blog is not lost on me! hahah) We lose a lot in translation. The written word tends to come across much more harshly than most of us intend. We can put one another on the defensive and cause pain to our brothers and sisters without even knowing it. I'm sure all of us have simply read something on Facebook (Halloween related or not) and been hurt by it. We never left a comment, so the writer probably had absolutely NO idea, and also, no chance to repair the relationship. This line of thinking made me remember John 13:34-35: "34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So, what impression do our "discussions" give the unbeliever? Do they recognize our love? Granted, there are times when a hard word IS love, and certainly, this could be one of them. I am just praying that is how these things are perceived by those who do not know our God... or that since we "discussed" publicly, we take the time to also love publicly. 

I waited to share anything publicly until it was over, just to avoid further division in the body. I did not feel particularly prompted to share much of anything, but to pray and let the Holy Spirit do His thing. Now, I'll give you my two cents. I'm not saying that my convictions aren't subject to change. I hope that I always continue to grow in spirit and in truth, and that may mean I have a different view on this at some point... but here is what I feel the Lord has shown me for now.

Halloween means nothing to me. October 31 is a date on the calendar, like any other day... and like any other day, it belongs to God. Since "Halloween" is not the standard around which I am planning my day, it is rather irrelevant. October 31 fell on a Monday this year, and that is the day that Ephraim and I go to 2nd Mile. So, we went to 2nd Mile. God led me to this ministry, to share hope with these kids, so that's what I did. The fact that it was October 31 didn't really change anything. We stopped at Publix on the way home to pick up a few things from my grocery list, and got home around 7:30 p.m. Ephraim and I ate dinner. Everyone else had already done so. After dinner, we harvested seeds from a small pumpkin and toasted them up. Then, we went to bed. Earlier in the month, we attended two fall festivals put on by local churches, and had I not already had a commitment to fulfill on Mondays, I would not have been opposed to attending another one. One of the festivals we attended was at a church where we know many people. We got to fellowship with other believers, the kids got to play some games and get candy, and it was fun. The other festival was just a church that Quincy and the kids happened to drive by. He stopped and met some complete strangers. They got to mutually encourage one another, and the kids enjoyed being able to jump in a bouncy house. Neither of those festivals were held on October 31, but personally (again, this is just my two cents) the date makes no difference to me. I understand and respect the argument that some of these festivals are put on as a sort of "substitute Halloween" for Christians to be able to do something "less evil." I just see it a bit differently. I guess it just goes back to the motives of those putting on the festivals. What is their intent? Maybe I'm naive or think too well of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I genuinely believe that most of their intentions are just to draw in their community and to make connections with people. They always have you fill out cards, you know. ;) At the second festival, Quincy said that more than one person presented him with the gospel message. So, more power to them. 

I feel like we are at another turning point in the Christian faith. I think that the Internet is like the printing press of our time. When early believers gained access to the Bible, it led to major changes in our faith. Our generation has gained access to all sorts of information, thousands of pastors, blogs, and other believers all around the world. It is bound to lead to major changes in our faith, yet again. I am praying that October 31 will be one of those major changes. I wonder what it was like for those early Christians who celebrated Christmas?. It was a pagan holiday, after all. Or Easter, for that matter?. Were their brothers and sisters shouting from the rooftops that they should not be participating in the nonsense of these holidays? I'm sure that many of the Christians who participated did so unknowingly and never bothered to consult God on the matter. On the other hand, there certainly must have been a group of believers who concocted another scheme. Somebody said, "Hey, let's just take the day back. If the pagans are having a big party celebrating pagan stuff, let's have a bigger party celebrating God stuff!" Over time, we really did come to associate Christmas with Christ's birth and Easter with His resurrection. Right or wrong, it is what happened. Is the same thing possible with Halloween? And are we just on the precipice of that change? Call me crazy, but I think it's possible. I don't know what the future will bring, but I am in full support of those believers who are actively working to reclaim the day for the One who makes all the days. Sure, there are lots of Christians who make no effort to share the gospel on October 31 or any day, but there are also some who go out of their way to do so on October 31, specifically because strangers come knocking on their doors. What WOULD Jesus do? It's October 31, and a dressed-up child knocks on His door saying, "Trick or Treat!!?" How would He respond? In Matthew 19:14, "14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What would Jesus do on October 29? Would it look different? Again, it's just my two cents, but the Holy Spirit has convicted me that the date means nothing, and that any time a child comes "knocking on my door," I should open it, and share the only TRUE treat with them - Jesus Christ. 

Paul said, in I Corinthians 9:19-23, "19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." If people who do not know my God come flocking to my door on October 31, I will answer the door. I will not turn them away. Honestly, there is not another day when I would have as easy an opportunity to see many of them, and I'll take the opportunity to share Truth with them. I am so encouraged by my friend's efforts to do just this with October 31 - you can read about it HERE. She is being intentional and genuinely using the day to share the Gospel with her neighbors. It could be easy for her, or any of us, to get caught up in costumes and candy, but as you can see, she is making a genuine effort to connect with her neighbors and share the love of Christ with them. This is a beautiful thing, any day of the year! Who knows? She may have a neighborhood full of gospel-sharers in just a few years, and they may have to move to other neighborhoods just to get customers! ;) 

I don't know how God convicts you to handle October 31. I don't know if you've ever brought the issue to Him. I DO know that my brothers and sisters who have gone before Him and sought His direction on the issue have received it. I respect that they are doing as He leads, whether we agree or not. I know that the Bible speaks to our unity, many times, for reasons like these. I have thought a great deal about the entire chapter of Romans 14, as it relates to this topic, and many others.

1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 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. 4 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.
 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
   “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
   every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]

 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.[c]

I plan to take some time to reflect on the Halloween discussions I've had on Facebook this year, the things I've read and considered harsh or hurtful, and the things I've written that could have been harsh or hurtful. I will be asking God to show me if there is anything I need to make right, and I'll be seeking His guidance in furthering His goal of UNITY within the body of Christ. I'd like to encourage you to do the same. If you haven't been party to any of it or have some other take on the subject, I ask you to pray for us. Pray for the body. Pray for UNITY. 

Join me in praying as Jesus prayed in John 17.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

...that the world will know...

MUCH LOVE, my brothers and sisters! So excited to move into a season of THANKSGIVING with all of you!

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh such a fresh breath of LOVE! Thank you sister!