Fear Not: Gospel Hope on Halloween
- Tuesday, October 05, 2010
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 1:3
You certainly don't need me to remind you that this is the time of year when our culture makes light of heavy subjects such as death, demons, witchcraft, and evil. Even if we want to avoid it, most of us can't. I learned this the hard way.
Last weekend I visited a local amusement park with friends. We planned this outing because we had free tickets and were in the mood to relive our carefree, rollercoaster-riding days of childhood. It wasn't until we passed through the front gates of the park that we saw the Halloween set-up.
During the day, the pumpkin-and-haystack theme looked charming and festive. But as night fell, the park took on an entirely different appearance. Fog machines filled the air with mist while off-key carnival music began to play. As we wandered through the park, clowns of all shapes and sizes appeared.
Suddenly, the first screams rang out as a cackling clown chased a teenage girl through the crowd. As the pair raced past us, we got an up-close-and-personal view of the clown's gory make-up. These were not the friendly sort you meet at the circus.
My friends and I spent the remainder of the evening huddled together, moving slowly through the shadowy landscape designed to obscure demented carnival creatures. The only things the darkness couldn't conceal, of course, were the screams of terror.
After we'd made it safely to our cars (and the adrenalin stopped pumping through my body), it occurred to me that while I wouldn't go back inside even if you paid me, our experience might have actually held some real spiritual merit. Don't misread me - I'm not advocating the glorification of darkness or evil. But here are some thoughts I took away from that evening:
Life can be scary, but with God we need not fear. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…. Psalms 23:4
God tells us to "fear not" countless times in Scripture. His frequent command indicates two things: (1) God anticipates that we will face scary situations, but (2) He is bigger and more powerful than any scary situation. We can find great comfort by taking God at His word.
Death is part of life. "For the wages of sin is death…." (Romans 6:23)
My friends and I saw images of death and decay everywhere we turned. Skeletons hung on lamp posts, and well…I'll leave the rest to your imagination. As we wandered among the "living dead" I couldn't help but realize how different this experience would be if my friends and I didn't have hope in Christ. After all, every skeleton statue proclaimed our destiny. Yet, my friends and I knew we weren't staring at the end of the story. Paul's words come to mind here, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Evil can be attractive.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13)
As my friends and I dug our nails into each other while attempting to avoid hoards of terrorizing clowns, the fact that this horrible set-up had been created to give people a night of fun did not escape me. And judging by the massive crowds who paid big bucks in admissions fees, the goal was accomplished. But outside the realm of silly Halloween festivities, how often do we see our fellow human beings attracted to that which is scary, dark, or evil? And how often do we see "wrong" masquerade as beautiful, attractive, or right? It is only through the light of Christ that we can discern clearly that which is truly good and that which only appears good.
Spiritual warfare exists.
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Not long ago I wrote a little bit about the nature of angels. My experience at the park gave me a glimpse into the nature of demons. It's easy to get lost in the everyday worries of life, and forget the greater spiritual reality. The trip to "Fear Fest" was a tangible reminder for me of our need to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18), and persevere in the faith.
Which brings us to the good and holy side of Halloween: All Saint's Day. I can't think of a more encouraging way to spend my Halloween than reflecting on the lives of fellow Christians who have fought the good fight, faced death, and now enjoy victory with Christ. Their witnesses inspire me to keep going even when the darkness closes in, when death threatens, or when evil looks like the better option.
I can't count the times reading the biography or writings of a Christian hero has deepened my understanding of what it means to live as a Christian in the world. Get out that list of books you've been meaning to pick up "someday" and read one of the greats of Christian literature. Need Suggestions? Try 131 Christians Everyone Should Know by Mark Galli and Ted Olson (Broadman & Holman, 2000).
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