Many years ago, a Bible teacher at our elementary school began her lesson with a shocking statement: “Jesus was not perfect. In fact, Jesus sinned!” I was stunned. It’s not as if I was making any plans to become a pastor or theologian, yet. I just pictured Jesus as faultless. What sin did the Son of God ever commit? This may have been the first serious challenge to my young faith.
The teacher began to read from the second chapter of John in the Bible: The story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding reception. “Do you understand?” asked the teacher with an obvious look of superiority. “Drinking alcohol is a sin. If you attend a party where people drink alcohol you are committing a sin. By attending that wedding reception and turning water into wine, Jesus sinned.”
Many uncomfortable years would pass before I discovered a better meaning to the story. Drunkenness was and still is a sin but wine was a common part of one’s diet then. This story has nothing to do with Jesus and sin so what is the real lesson? The answer will help resolve another dilemma: Halloween.
Last week, I asked: “How should Christians respond to a holiday with such dark undertones? Do we heed or ignore the warnings?” I received a lot of emails. Here are two heavily edited examples:
“I was raised loving Halloween. Some of my favorite memories were with my dad carving Jack O’Lanterns. Unfortunately, after I became a Christian and went to work at a Christian school, I was informed of how evil my family was for celebrating such a pagan holiday. How could I suddenly reject what was such a wonderful time in my life?” Julie
“I knew a girl once involved with Satanists. For her, Halloween carried a haunting meaning. She was deeply hurt by churches that celebrated this day with Halloween Parties. ‘Why would they want to celebrate a day that is a celebration for Satan?’” Charles
So, which answer is right? Actually, both! Look at how Jesus responded at the wedding reception.
Jesus had a similar choice to make. He could have declared the party a waste of his precious time and an insult to God before stomping off in protest. Instead, Jesus chose a different way. He used the situation to teach a lesson on God’s power over nature by turning ordinary water into fine wine. Several who accompanied Christ became disciples because of the miracle they witnessed.
In other words, we can complain about Halloween or look for an opportunity to change water into wine.
- Rather than leave your house dark or pass out candy, give pencils printed with Bible verses.
- Have your children dress up as Biblical characters or heroes. Tell the story of their character.
- Your church can advertise itself as a safe place to go for Halloween. Offer games, prizes and food but avoid scary costumes, haunted houses or fortune telling.
- Give every visiting adult a brochure outlining your church ministry and programs.
- Be alert for those tempted by satanic groups. Pray for an opportunity to offer guidance.
- Lead a prayer group on Halloween and ask for God’s protection in your community.
- Encourage your pastor to hold an All Saints worship service honoring those who have died.
- Have a testimony time on All Saints Sunday and share the stories of former church heroes.
Whatever choice you make about Halloween, the real challenge is how creatively you can present that decision to your children and to your friends and neighbors. In other words, don’t act like a judge looking to condemn. Instead, become an enthusiastic witness of God’s miraculous love and grace.
Shortly after one of our Sunday worship services, I asked a visitor what brought her to this church? She replied with a smile, “The kids begged me to bring them to your Halloween party. They had so much fun and everyone I talked to at the party was so enthusiastic about this church I simply had to come and see for myself. Pastor, they were so right. I really feel the spirit of God’s love here.”
With God’s help maybe we can all turn a little water into wine. It sure beats calling Jesus a sinner!