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“You’re either on one side of the fence or the other,” Pastor Chip said. “No straddling the fence. Think about it. It will hurt!” he said as he lifted one of his legs over an imaginary fence, raised to his tippy toes, and grimaced as he placed the leg down. “You need to pick a side.”
He was speaking about having one foot in the world and the other in Christ — a less than all-in Christian posture.
But, I’ve come across many (what I call) gray areas in Christianity that cause me to straddle the fence (i.e. pagan origins of Easter celebration, how theologians differ on "the end times" [eschatology], and the many divisive Christian denominations ... to name a few). And regarding Halloween, I’ve got to admit — I’ve become a fence-straddler.
I spent my childhood loving Halloween, going trick-or-treat, dressing up as whatever I wanted. It was fun! I knew nothing about its origins.
Fast forward 20 years — I was a newly-rededicated Christian mom — a freshly squeezed-out Jesus sponge, soaking up all I could to understand and honor God. I was careful what I let into my home and into my life as I became aware of godless influences around us in TV, movies, and friends. I was naïve about so many spiritual dangers. One October day, our babysitter handed me a print-out when I picked the children up from her house — “The Truth about Halloween.”
We were shocked to learn how deeply rooted it is in evil. It is truly a dark and pagan ritualistic event for witchcraft and satanism. My husband and I felt we had been naive all these years, leaving all of us vulnerable to demonic attacks. It wasn't innocent fun. We decided our family would no longer celebrate Halloween.
Needless to say, our children who had already celebrated Halloween for several years, were floored by our decision. We explained our heartfelt reasons and that we were protecting them from evil and taking a holy stance that would show which side of the fence we stood on — God’s side! We didn’t want to offend God. We would honor God.
Our four children went along with us, reluctantly. We got them lots of candy and took them out to dinner each year. But that didn’t matter. They missed dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating together. Their friends probably did a lot of eye-rolling too.
Fast forward another 20 years. Our grown children dress up in costumes and go to parties. Our grandchildren are superheroes who go door to door on Halloween night. The ban on Halloween ended with us.
Although I believe we were acting on our best understanding and pure hearts, I’m not sure we handled this the best. We didn't participate. We lost an opportunity to be light in our dark world. And that is why I consider myself a fence-straddler. I still don’t like what Halloween stands for but I think we can honor God on the one night of the year that our neighbors come out to our homes. I do see the positive results of kind neighbors, candy-givers, and children excited about the event.
We don’t get do-overs with parenting. We were so focused on protecting our family and avoiding evil, that we failed to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us to overcome the darkness. As my grandmother used to say, “we choked on a gnat but swallowed a camel" ().
Maybe we’re not fence straddlers – maybe it's time for our fence to be removed.
So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.NLT
Father, help us all to focus on what's most important about each day you allow us to have here on earth. Your Word says to love you with all our hearts, minds, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help each of us to know what that looks like on October 31. And help us to refrain from judging others about their Halloween decisions.
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