There's some strange-looking kids in the Fairchild house this week. My youngest has been transformed into the video-game character Mario and my oldest is looking a little thin -- much like a skeleton. We've been working on costumes because Halloween is next Sunday.
It always seems when we hit this time of the year that divisions appear in the ranks of Christ followers. Some see nothing wrong with letting their kids trick or treat on Halloween while others want nothing to do with the holiday. Each side has good reasons for their decisions and can use scripture to back up those decisions.
The debate generally continues straight through Christmas with the discussions about whether including Santa Claus in your Christmas celebrations detracts from Jesus. Many times these divisions within the ranks of Christian parents can cause hurt feelings.
In our house, we trick or treat on Halloween, and Santa makes a visit to our home on Christmas Eve. But I have friends who do neither, and some who don't trick or treat but think Santa is OK. So, who's right and who's wrong? In my opinion, no one.
The Bible is really clear about some things -- murder is wrong, Christ is the only way to God, and Jesus died for our sins. However, it gives no clear direction on other things, like Santa and Halloween. In my opinion, you should do whatever you feel is best for your family, making sure you base your decisions on time spent in prayer and God's word.
What we should not do, though, is judge others who may think differently. When Christ followers start judging each other on things on which there is no clear-cut answer, we break up the unity of the body of Christ. Today's memory verse speaks directly to that issue. "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Our understanding of what causes a stumbling block to another person may differ, but if each of us is, to the best of our ability, trying to follow what God is telling us, then we have no right to judge one another.
This passage of scripture was addressing a difference of opinion over what foods to eat. Some people believed that Christians should only eat "clean" foods listed in the Law, while others believed that all food was permissible. The controversy was causing great division in the church. The problem was not the food, but the judgmental nature of the Christ-followers on each side of the issue.
While the points of division have changed, the problem remains among Christ-followers today. As we head toward the holiday season, starting with Halloween, keep this verse in your heart. Remember that while you may differ with another Christ-follower in how you approach the holidays, you are not to judge them. Instead, we are called to love each other. Healthy debate of the issue is great and thought-provoking for all parties. Judgmental condemnation over an issue like this is hurtful and divisive. If you agree on the important stuff -- Christ died to bridge the gap between our sinful selves and God, and He is the only way to God -- then judging someone else on the small stuff serves no purpose.
So, whether you will have skeletons and video-game characters wandering your home or you will be participating in your church's Sunday evening activities on Halloween, be loving and respectful of those Christ-followers who make a different choice than you.