Pumkins: to carve or cook?
At this time of year the shops are full of the standard Halloween tat. Pointy hats, plastic spookiness and pumpkins not destined for soup. I say ‘standard’ tat, but in the last few years it seems that Halloween has become more of an event in England. In part this reflects a bored society longing to celebrate anything. But how should Christians respond to the growth of Halloween? Just a bit of fun? A serious concern? On Sunday morning we looked to Mark 5:1-20 for help. Three thoughts:
One: Jesus is against evil. Jesus steps off a boat and is met by a man with an unclean or evil spirit. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” cries the spirit (v.7). He recognises immediately that he and Jesus are opposed to each other. Throughout His ministry Jesus opposed evil. He was confronted by the devil. He cast out demons. Evil is real. The man with the evil spirit is in a desperately sad state: isolated; out of control; and miserable (vv.3-5). If man is made in the image of God, evil seeks to destroy and mar the beauty of God’s creation. Evil is ugly.
So . . . don’t be fooled. The devil would like us to think that evil is untrue or just a laugh. It would be unkind to be judgemental of friends who just view Halloween as a bit of fun. But let’s not be fooled ourselves. Evil is real and ugly.
Two: Jesus is stronger than evil. The reason Mark tells us about the desperate state of the man with the unclean spirit is not to fascinate us with the man, but to lead us to worship Jesus. Jesus is stronger. The man bows down before Jesus and begs him three times (vv.6-12).
So . . . don’t be afraid. If one error is to take evil too lightly, another is to become obsessed by it. We’re not to look for demons everywhere. We’re to worship Jesus.
Three: Jesus has defeated evil. The man is wonderfully restored. The townspeople find him sitting clothed and in his right mind (v.15). Jesus supremely beat evil on the cross. The devil has no rights over those who trust in Jesus.
So . . . don’t celebrate evil, celebrate Jesus. We will all figure out how to respond to Halloween in different ways. We need to be careful not to celebrate evil, or to give our friends the impression that we take evil lightly. As Christians we are called to be distinctive. At the same time, let’s point people to the hope that we have in Christ. We might do this by giving out a Halloween tract to trick-or-treaters or by hosting a light party. Alternatively we might ignore Halloween and talk of Reformation day or start thinking of whom we might invite to a carol service. On the 31st October people will knock on our doors and demand a gift, on 25th December Christians will choose to give each other gifts because God chose to give us the gift of his son, out of love and not out of fear or obligation.
Jesus commanded the man who had been restored: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v.19). Our best response to Halloween is to do likewise.
Richard Dryer 29/10/2016