As I write this column, many are preparing for Halloween celebrations. In the Christian community, there are various, sometimes strong, opinions on this particular holiday. My intention is not to write one way or the other about it.For those of you wondering about what the Bible says about such observances, I think Romans 14 will help give you guidance on the subject. As you read that passage, I think you will discover that you are free one way or the other to do what you like, just be careful that you don't use that freedom to condemn those who have other views.
The reason I mention the holiday is because this is a good time to discuss the broader implications of the holiday. On Halloween (remember the word means "haloed eve" and is the night before All Saints Day), people dress up in all sorts of costumes and have a fun time either trick-or-treating or greeting those who come to the door for the festivities.
Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I think it is appropriate to pray for the safety of those who do. Sad we have to do that, but unfortunately in our generation some very cruel tricks have been played on trusting children by some very twisted minds.
Now, whether or not you agree with the holiday, dressing up for Halloween is, for the most part, harmless fun. We recognize the joy of the make-believe, where for a night a child becomes Iron Man or some other super hero in his own mind.
My son went to the Disney Halloween party in a very realistic Iron Man costume. From there, he sent back a picture of him posing with some little guy in a store-bought Iron Man costume, and the look of sheer joy on that little guy's face was priceless. I think he thought he was really meeting Iron Man.
My son told me that he was just one example of hundreds dressed in the costume who wanted to meet him and have their picture taken with him.
Halloween can be a lot of fun for people as they dress up fully aware of the fact that they are simply masquerading for a night of frivolity.
Sadly, there are those who live their entire lives hidden behind masks, people who pretend to be something they are not. The general term for this horrendous practice is hypocrisy. I think it was Zig Ziglar who quipped, "A hypocrite is someone who is not themselves on Sunday."
Later, in a response to an individual who said that they didn't go to church "because of all the hypocrites who were there," Mr. Ziglar responded, "Well, then come on to church, one more won't matter!" There's a lot of truth in that statement.
It's amazing that we don't see hypocrisy which we know exists at our work places as an excuse not to go to work, or even the hypocrisy that exists many times in our social groups as a reason to stop socializing with them, but when it comes to church we think it is a valid excuse not to attend.
Someone once observed, "To hide behind a hypocrite, one must be smaller than them."
The Bible warns against hypocrisy. It says, "Check up on yourselves. Are you really Christians? Do you pass the test? Do you feel Christ's presence and power more and more within you? Or are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren't at all?" (2 Corinthians 13:5, The Living Bible).
Hypocrisy is defined in the dictionary as "feigning to be what one is not," and it defines the hypocrite as "a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion." We've all seen it and we all know the damage such masquerading can do.
A hypocrite is not a person who has failures and weaknesses (all of us would be hypocrites if that is the definition), but a hypocrite is a person who, with full knowledge of those failures and without any attempt to reform themselves, purposefully presents themselves as if they have been reformed.
They are living the practice of Trick-or-Treating in their daily lives, and sadly the damage that does to the genuine faith is devastating.
"Check up on yourselves. Are you Really Christians?"
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.