|Volume 19 Number 1 January 2017||
Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate some of the holidays popular in our society—like giving gifts at Christmas time, allowing children to go trick-or-treating at Halloween or hunting eggs at Easter? In considering this issue, several things should be kept in view. A practice may have originated under certain circumstances, but eventually it may have lost that significance—either in whole or at least significantly. There is Bible precedent for dealing with this principle.
Consider the practice of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols previously—a very lively issue in the first century. Here is the background: A meat sacrifice would be made to an idol. After a certain portion was consumed in sacrificial flames (or by the priests), the balance would be sold as common food in the market. The controversy, therefore, arose: “Is this meat contaminated simply because it had some connection with an idol?” Paul’s answer is, “No” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). If one has “knowledge” (i.e., that an idol is “nothing”) and his conscience is not offended, he may eat of that meat. It is not contaminated merely by its former association.
Yet, there is this caution: If one is in an environment wherein some “weak” (i.e., without mature knowledge) brother is liable to be damaged, then, it would be best to refrain in that instance lest the weak brother’s conscience be wounded.
It would be wrong to partake religiously of a practice that compromises one’s fidelity to the truth. The apostle deals with such a matter in 1 Corinthians 10. If in a service where sacrifices were being offered to “demons” the Christian were to partake (i.e., have “communion,” koinonia—participation, fellowship) with those involved in the illicit worship, such clearly would be sinful (10:20-21).
To practice Christmas, Halloween or Easter religiously would be unwarranted. To do so merely as a cultural custom would be a matter of personal judgment.
In Romans 14, Paul argued the general proposition that there will be different levels of knowledge among brethren and that, to a certain extent, these must be accommodated for the sake of Christian unity. For example, some, out of conviction, choose not to eat meats; others see nothing wrong with such a practice.
The apostle instructed that neither individual is to “set at naught” the other. No man is to create a law in areas of expediency, and then demand that all others submit. If an overt act of transgression is not the issue, peace must prevail.
Most folks who are rather sensitive about these cultural practices are not consistent entirely in their own conduct. Consider, for example, the celebration of birthdays. In ancient Egypt, the birthdays of the Pharaohs were considered as “holy” days, on which no work was to be done (McClintock and Strong 817). Moreover, as John Lightfoot noted, “The Jewish schools esteem the keeping of birthdays a part of idolatrous worship” (217).
Does this mean that if a man in this era gives his wife a birthday present or if we have a birthday party for a child we have compromised our faith? Surely no one will so allege. What about the man who takes his wife out for dinner and gives her flowers on Valentine’s Day? Has he yielded to the Romish dogma regarding “Saint Valentine”? When we place flowers on the graves of our loved ones, is this the same as the Hindu practice of putting food on the graves of one’s ancestors? Does having a wedding ceremony in a church building imply that we endorse the Catholic notion that marriage is a “church sacrament”? Surely these queries must be answered negatively.
Practices can change with time and mean different things to different people. We must not compromise the truth, but neither are we permitted to make spiritual laws for others.
[Editor’s Note: Brother Jackson ably and concisely provided herein a biblically solid and logically reasonable answer to the query respecting the propriety of celebrating holidays by Christians. With Wayne Jackson we concur that while “we must not compromise the truth… neither are we permitted to make spiritual laws…” Myriads today already view the Bible and the New Testament Gospel in particular as offensive and too restrictive. Certainly, we ought to concern ourselves with the prohibitions (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8; etc.) and positive instructions (Matthew 25:31-46; James 4:17; etc.) that are recorded upon the pages of inspiration and refrain from making the practice of Christianity any more difficult—and unnecessarily so—than it is already. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Calling on the Lord
How does one call upon the name of the Lord? The Bible teaches how we are to call on the name of the Lord. When the apostle Peter preached with the other eleven apostles on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, he quoted the Prophet Joel when he said, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Many do not know how God wants them to call on Him. Paul wrote, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12). Paul wrote the same as Peter did on the Day of Pentecost in Romans 10:13. After this he wrote, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
When we preach the Gospel of Jesus, people know how to call on Him (Romans 1:16). Jesus said, “… preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved …” (Mark 16:15-16). The Gospel is “the Word of faith we preach.” “…The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth” (Romans 10:8). Is this praying? No. Paul went on and said,
…and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 10:8-11)
Philip the Evangelist said,
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus… they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:35-38)
Hearing the Word of God produced faith in the eunuch (Romans 10:17). When he believed in Jesus, he was not ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10-11). He confessed Him to Philip. Luke wrote of Paul’s conversion; Ananias told him, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). This is the way one calls on God. Not our way, but His way.