Redeem Halloween: Being Missional on Fright Night
And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:2
Tonight, we will turn our porch lights on, set out a sign, and be handing out king sized candy bars to hundreds of kids, moms, dads, and teens. Some will grumble that we receive sinners. But they said this of Jesus too.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Many Christians believe that handing out candy on Halloween is not a good idea. They assume, "if I hand out candy, I am advocating all this day stands for and will therefore compromise my witness as a Christian." Yes, Halloween can stand for some really wicked things. Yes, it is a day that people worship Satan, demons, and spiritual darkness. Yes, it is an excuse for unrepentant sinning. But we are the light of the world! Light is intended for darkness. "Does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket?"
The darker the day, the more the light stands out. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Who needs to see the light of Christ? Saints? Or sinners?
And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and manytaxcollectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Phariseessaw that He was eating with the sinners and taxcollectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with taxcollectors and sinners?"And hearing this, Jesussaid to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:15-17
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners. And how did Jesus, the physician, engage those who were sick? He hung out with them, engaged with them, ate with them. If our Master, Jesus, spent time with sinners in this way, how can we think ourselves too "holy" to do the same? It was the Pharisees who saw themselves as too holy to engage with sinners on the ground level. Let us be like Jesus, not like those spiritually arrogant pharisees.
For a moment, let's imagine Jimmy and I are missionaries in a foreign country. We have just moved in and are still getting a feel for the culture and daily life of this country's inhabitants. Very few know about Jesus, and ancestral worship is the most common religious practice. We have been praying about a way to get to know more people and have some opportunities to share about Jesus. Then, we hear about a large ancestral worship festival in which all of the city will be out. If you will only turn on your porch light, they will come to your door singing songs of praise to their ancestors.
As missionaries, we'd thank God for such a great opportunity! Instead of spending days looking for a single moment to get to know someone and talk about faith, we now have many who will come to our door with their mind already on spiritual things! I can't imagine a more perfect opportunity to get to know these foreigners and talk about my faith!
This is exactly what Halloween can be for the Jesus-followers in this country! We should be missional in our neighborhoods already, seeking to reach our neighbors with the good news of Jesus. So what a perfect day to get to know the families that live around us! On top of that, there is already an air of spirituality on this day. Yes it has an evil spiritual feel, but it's a perfect springboard to bring up the topic of life, death, hell, heaven, and a Great God who has defeated Satan on the cross through the unbelievable grace of sacrificing His Son on the behalf of sinners like us!
Jesus received sinners, so likewise, let us receive sinners today.
TURN IT FOR GOOD
There is a way to engage people on Halloween, without actually celebrating the day itself. We are very careful to not have any traditionally Halloween decorations, like ghosts, spiderwebs, monsters, etc. Instead, we are trying to brand ourselves as the "crazy-generous" house on our street, to make a statement about the gracious nature of our God through sending His Son!
There is a song we love to sing at our church called "Sovereign Over Us" by Aaron Keyes that says, "Even what the enemy means for evil, you turn it for our good, you turn it for our good and Your glory." Halloween is a day that Satan has intended for evil, but God in us is leveraging it for the good of others through sharing the Gospel and the glory of God by pointing to His grace.
You see, Halloween is kind of a big deal on our street. Every year, we have 100s of people come to our door. Last year that number was 700! This year we purchased 1,000 king sized bars (anticipating a growing crowd) and have our college homegroup helping through prayer, handing out candy, welcoming people at the bottom of our stairs, and looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus. After being loved, welcomed, and blessed with king-sized bars, each person will be pointed to Jesus through signs on the way out proclaiming Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
WE ARE SINNERS TOO
Let us not forget, that the only reason we are saved is because Jesus condescended into the filth of our life, met us where we were at, and extended grace and love to us there. We are no less sinners than those we seek to reach. We are simply great sinners with a greater Savior! Let us not fall into the trap of the Pharisees, thinking in our religious arrogance that we are better than those who don't know Him. For Jesus Himself said, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you [religious leaders]." Matt 21:31
"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." 1 Tim 1:15
Let's remember our Lord's charge to us on nights like tonight, not to run from darkness but charge toward it with the loving light of the gospel. "And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15