WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? If you were a teenager in the 90s I know you had the bracelet. But, while youth groups were pumping a message of living as Jesus would live in this culture, the evangelical church began to amp up efforts to create its own counter-culture.
Enter the alternative Halloween celebration...
So WWJD? Would he go to first church of whatever's "Fall Festival" or would he stay close-to-home and be a part of the Halloween night candy exchange in his village?
I think Jesus would trick or treat. Okay, I don't believe he would actually dress up and go door to door holding a plastic bag wide open. But, I do think his porch light would be on. I believe he'd hand out the best candy out there. I think he'd reschedule other activities to make sure he was home to participate.
Why? Because Jesus was love. He commands us to love our neighbors. (It's not a suggestion, it's a command). Not just the people in our family. Not just the people in the church. The people on our blocks. You know...those people you spend fourteen milliseconds waving at before their garage doors close.
Jesus genuinely cared about people. He showed us, by example, that to love others means to engage them. He went to sinners' parties. He touched the unclean. He associated with those that the religious of the day wouldn't get near. He didn't cloister himself in the temple. In fact, the people he most often ran from or reprimanded were the religious. His message of love, grace, and hope was for everyone. And, to reach them with his message he had to get close to them.
Sadly though, tonight in neighborhoods across the country it's the Christians who will ruin trick-or-treating for the kids on their blocks. It's the Christians who will hide in the dark or rush to their church so they can have a legitimate "God-approved" reason for not spending all that money on candy for people they don't know.
On the one day of the year when people are actually outside, walking down the streets, knocking on neighbors' doors and interacting with others around them, the Christians leave making it more difficult for our communities to enjoy trick-or-treat night because we're not home. We show them how much "more spiritual" we are because we do all of our ritualistic costume-donning and sugar-exchanging in the comfort of our church multi-purpose rooms or parking lots while saying, "We don't celebrate Halloween."
We don't let our lights shine...in fact, we make sure our (porch) lights are off.
And, what do we communicate in that? Is it love? I don't think so.
I'm not anti-Fall Festival. I understand that there is a community outreach aspect to some of the church events out there. But, why hold them on trick or treat night? Why expect those who don't believe to come to you? Why not be a part of what the neighborhood is already doing and go to them? Why not expand the outreach power and encourage every church member to reach out to their neighbors with the Gospel on their own front lawns?
I've heard all of the "it's safer" rhetorical justifications, too. But, if this is where you hang your hat, do some fact-checking. A child hasn't been actually poisoned by candy from a stranger in 30 years. There were a few reported cases where razor blades or pins were put into candy to scare children, but frankly the numbers on this are pretty low too -- like 80 total cases over the last 60 years. By and large, trick-or-treating isn't dangerous if parents are involved and alert. And even so, why not be the one house in your neighborhood that other parents feel confident going to?
Should we advocate or participate in evil. Of course not. And, trick-or-treating dressed as witches or other demonic creatures crosses the line, I think. By all means, if you have strong convictions not to celebrate Halloween, in anyway, you should follow them. But, I don't think just because Halloween's roots are pagan, we don't have to avoid it. We instead have the opportunity to redeem it and use it for the Gospel. I found this article to have some really good perspective on Halloween's history and how we, as Christians, can avoid the evil while not missing the outreach opportunity.
Jesus called me to love my neighbor. He wants me to be a beacon of light to those who live around me. He wants my reputation in my community to be that of one who cares, one who loves, and one who can offer hope because I know in whom my hope rests. Sure, it's going to take more than giving out a few hundred Snickers bars tonight to actually communicate all that, but it's an easy way to start getting to know those whom I'm commanded to love.
This post originally appeared on WorkingOutLove.com in October of 2012.