Halloween—Love it? Hate it? Most Christians lean one way or another. Those who remain ambivalent do so with an uneasy spirit. Don’t want to promote evil; don’t want to ruin the kids’ fun.
I suggest we bestow on the day a greater significance than its long-time identity as the Eve of All Saints. For it was on this day in 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther chose to post his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. It is hard to overestimate the consequences of this document. It set in motion a conflict that reshaped the history of western civilization.
One of its primary topics included Luther’s objection to the selling of indulgences. This practice enticed poor common people to purchase indulgences that would, according to church leaders, buy themselves or their deceased relatives’ forgiveness. Luther contended that the church had deceived her people.
"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification, is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness."
As a young monk, Luther had suffered with feelings of inadequacy, thinking he was never able to do enough good, suffer enough penance, to become righteous. He was right. It wasn’t possible.
Through much study, particularly in the book of Romans, Luther discovered freedom:
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (3:22-24).
"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand" (5:1-2).
As a youth, I struggled with the same confusion. My church tradition taught, or at least promoted in practice, that I needed to earn my way to heaven. Discovering the truth shrugged that weight off my shoulders, relieved my mind, and caused the joy to bubble up inside me.
You mean I don’t have to do stuff to please God? I don’t have to pay a price for my sins? God loves me just because? He loves me that much? OMG!!
Justification through faith. Faith alone.
Theology isn’t always dull. Often it can be exciting, even liberating!
Whatever you think about Halloween, celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day (too). Remember that Christ has freed you from darkness and brought you into his kingdom of light, if you but believe. Sola fide!