Are You a Light or a Snuffer?

 

You are the light of the world, like a city on a hill which can not be hidden”.

I’m sure most of us, whether we were raised in church or not, have either heard or sung that old song, This Little Light of Mine. As I recall, the song seemed to have an unlimited number of verses to it so that it could be sung continually for hours on end.  I’m quite certain that many of the verses were made up along the way-“let it shine ’til Jesus comes”…”light it when I first wake up.”…”wonder what’s for lunch today”…you get the picture.  One of the hundreds of verses was, “won’t let Satan blow it out“, substituting the word “blow” with an actual blowing sound for effect.  Sadly, some Christians have taken up that job themselves, snuffing out the lights of others.

Social media has invaded our lives.  It’s hard to imagine a time when Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms didn’t exist.  There are many positive aspects of being able to connect with old friends and keep in touch with distant relatives or even face-timing or video chatting with someone a thousand miles away.  But social media has also become a vehicle for bashing each other, tearing others down and sowing discord.  Being able to post uncensored thoughts in real time has given some a bold and brazen approach to being over critical and judgmental beyond our authority.  Instead of being lights in the world, some have made it their mission, or dare I suggest, their ministry, to snuff or blow out the lights of others.  We don’t need to worry about Satan blowing out lights when the snuffers are our own Christian siblings.

A person enjoys a nice glass of wine, a beer or even an occasional cocktail while out with friends.  A holy roller sees this and determines that true Christians should never be seen drinking, so they blow out their light.  The lady who has a shapely figure comes to church in a nice modest dress, but a church mother thinks it is too form fitting and a distraction-a Christian lady would never wear that to church, so puff, out goes her light.  A man exercises his right to vote in the election, but some pious saints know he voted for the “wrong” candidate.  How could any true believer call themselves a Christian but support that person and their platform.  There goes another light.  Satan is taking a long overdue vacation while we do his work for him.  Instead of exhorting each other on to greater things, as scripture compels us to do, we have become volunteer firefighters, looking for the next flame to extinguish.

A couple years ago I had the unique privilege of attending an Easter service in the Greek Orthodox tradition.  I can’t tell you what a reverent experience it was.  Unlike the traditional Easter Sunday service most of us are accustomed to, their service begins on the Saturday night before and extends into the morning hours of Easter Sunday.  One of the most beautiful aspect of this service happens at midnight.  At precisely 12:00 AM all of the lights of the church are turned off and all candles on the altar are extinguished.  This is done to signify the dark hours of Christ being in the tomb.  For a few minutes there is nothing but silence and total darkness.  And then, the priest lights one small candle, signifying Christ’s resurrection!  He then lights the candles of the assistant priests, who pass it on to the assistants, who then take it into the congregation where each parishioner is holding their own candle.  They light the candle of the first person in each row, who then light the person next to them, going row by row until everyone’s candle is burning.  It is quite an extraordinary event that is hard to put into words.

There were two observations that stood out to me while participating in this beautiful depiction of Christ’s resurrection.  First, was just the impact and significance of life bursting forth from the darkness and emptiness of a lifeless tomb.  It drove home the miracle of the resurrection.  But the second thing that impressed me was just how quickly a dark church cathedral could be lit up when each person’s little light was joined with others to drive out darkness and illuminate an entire structure!  One little candle can light up a small place, and many such candles can chase away any darkness.  It is no coincidence that the large floodlights illuminating effects are measured in candle-power.

Our faith has always been and will continue to be under attack by those forces who don’t understand, don’t agree with or find folly in our beliefs.  Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because it hated him.  It’s difficult enough to protect our lights from the secular forces wanting to snuff it out.  We shouldn’t also be concerned with other believers seeking ways to snuff us out.  If you proudly wave the banner of your faith, but your social media posts are always negative, condemning or divisive, perhaps you should spend some time trimming your own candle and take inventory of how you are being viewed, or more importantly, how your posts reflect the heart of Christianity.  I observe a particular Christian holiday, you see it as pagan-I eat and drink or dress or vote a certain way, you don’t.  Let it go, protect my flame as I protect yours.  Concentrate on being a light, not a snuffer.  Let true brotherly love be your illumination, not bitterness, envy, strife, jealousy or cultural/social difference.  We are told in scripture that the world would know we follow Christ when they witness the love we have for each other, not the discord or divisions.  Together we should be that city on a hill whose light can’t be hidden or put out.  One little light can make a difference in a dark world, especially when joined with so many others!

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Halloween-the Eighth Deadly Sin

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The beauty of owning your own blog is the freedom of opining without apologies on certain controversial issues.  Yours is a choice to read, agree and share or cast stones and pray for my soul.  Either works for me-why should the kids have all the fun on Halloween?

It happens this time each year.  As parents of young children contemplate how to dress their young ghouls up for the traditional night of begging for candy, the do-good keepers of the faith and all that is holy come out on social media and proclaim with mighty shouts of condemnation the evils of celebrating a time-honored festival. Young Christian families, wanting to honor God and train their children up correctly while not depriving them of one of the rites of childhood are caught in a dilemma.  Guilted by the pressure to disavow themselves of any acknowledgement of such an evilly rooted pagan ritual, they bow out of all observances of Halloween much to the dismay of little Frankenstein and adorable Snow White, and the legalistic overseers of Christendom wring their hands and give glory to God for another backslidden lost soul that has been snatched from the fire.

I suppose by now you may know where I’m going with this. So while the Pharisees are preaching to you about All Hallows Eve, let’s examine a few facts, just for the record.  The term “Halloween” dates back to 1754 and is, hold on to your seats, of CHRISTIAN origin! It is a Scottish term meaning holy evening. It is an evolved term from older English that refers to the night or eve of a Christian holy day, All Hallows Day on Nov. 1 and All Saints Day Nov. 2, in commemoration of all the departed souls through death and martyrdom.  While fundamentalists will try to link this holiday back to the Roman observance of Parentalia, or festival of the dead, it is more typically and easily traced back to the Celtic Festival of Samhain,or Summer’s end.  But the posted theories of Halloween’s beginnings are so numerous that even scholars can’t easily agree with it’s birth or original intent. Sadly many won’t do the research to come up with their own understanding of the roots and origins of Halloween but will instead treat as gospel all they hear from the legalistic protectors of the church, the same that lead you to believe similar heresies about Christmas and Easter observances. What’s important to the young mom struggling with this decision is not how it originated 1000 years ago, but what it represents today and how you share it with your children.

I have fond memories of Halloween as a boy.  Our parents had many hard times due to labor strikes, etc, so money was not always abundant. Most years I recall putting on one of my dad’s over sized shirts around me and a pillow to look like a little rascal street bum.  The pillowcase from the pillow served as my treat bag and I was pretty good at filling it up. Unlike today, in the 60’s every house was lit up as the homeowners anticipated what creative costumes the new year would provide. There was nothing evil, sinister, dark or demonic about the holiday.  I might add that my parents were strict Full Gospel at the time and saw nothing wrong with the way we observed the night. Our neighbor would host a Halloween party for the kids on the block (not the musical group) complete with treats, scary stories and a buffet of gruesome finger foods (brains, heart, intestines) made from simple ordinary foods.  We had to partake blind folded for the shock value.  An amazing thing happened-I lived and am not possessed (usually).  I even went on to a brief time of pastoral ministry.

As a young father I couldn’t wait to take our boys out and introduce them to the same childhood ritual I had partaken in many years before.  We would take them house to house and then gather as a community for one large block party at the rec center. Not one time in all my observances did I feel the Holy Spirit convict me of honoring evil influences.  One of my fondest memories as a Christian teen was our Youth group’s annual trip to a haunted house in Indy called Scream in the Dark, an AG church sponsored function. There is still within me that part that likes the thrill and suspense of the holiday. I never morphed into an evil ogre or dreamed of releasing sadistic rituals on the unsuspecting. I wasn’t hypnotized by watching scary movies and I didn’t have nightmares of Sleepy Hollow (Freddie and Michael hadn’t been born yet).

So it begs to question-can the evil forces that constantly plague our souls for control use Halloween as a conduit for warfare?  Absolutely! Can they do the same while watching an NFL game on TV?  Absolutely! Can Christ be honored at Halloween? Absolutely! “Whatever we do, do for the glory of God”. Churches have opened their facilities to host alternative celebrations or Trunk or Treat evenings. They have used this occasion as an opportunity for outreach to attract kids and families from their local communities to the existence and ministry of the church. It is not uncommon for an entire family who had not gone to church prior, to find a new church home as a result of these outreaches. Many in our faith will wrap small chocolate bars with scriptures they printed out and use the time as an opportunity to plant a small seed with the candy. Christian bookstores sell candy and gum already imprinted or wrapped with inspirational quotes or verses. Some just find a sheer joy in opening their homes up on Halloween and giving treats to kids just because.

Of course there will be those who take advantage of the night to perpetrate evil, as they would with any holiday. The night will only shed light on the evil that is already present.  Halloween doesn’t mysteriously bring evil to life like the immortal Michael Meyers.  He comes back more than an ex-wife for an alimony check. If as a believer in Christ you are genuinely confused about how or if to observe Halloween, seek God for peace in your spirit one way or another. Don’t bow at the feet of the Puritans words without doing your own soul searching on the matter.  If you ask me, the only evil of Halloween is the sinful amount of calories consumed as you raid your child’s treat bag!