pumpkin closeup

What are your plans for trick-or-treat (or Beggars’ Night, or whatever your community calls it) this year? Will you lock the door, turn off the porch light and hide out in the basement? Will you go shopping, or out to eat? Or will you embrace the reality that dozens of little lost souls may be parading up to your front door with their hands out, asking you to give them something… anything?

For the first few years of our marriage, we were the former. To us, participating in any Halloween activity was an endorsement of the demonic. It meant we were OK with the ghosts and witches, fake human cadavers, and the blood-soaked mock murder scenes up and down our street and plastered over every store. To us, Halloween had gone way too far, and we were not about to participate.

In hindsight, we believe that was not a Christlike response.

We have begun to see that the Bible calls us to have a much different attitude toward society.

Instead of burying our heads in the sand and plugging our ears, we are to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).

Instead of turning our backs on what’s going on in society, we are to shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

Salt cannot have a seasoning effect if it is left in the cupboard. It must come in contact with blandness before its saltiness can be realized.

Then there are all the biblical commands to show hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9).

By holing up in our house, we were sending an unspoken message “not welcome” to our closest neighbors, many of whom we had never met — and many of whom probably didn’t know Christ.

We often think of hospitality as entertaining friends in our home for a meal. But the true definition of hospitality differs on three levels.

First, hospitality doesn’t necessarily involve an invitation.

Secondly, hospitality is extended to strangers, not friends.

And thirdly, hospitality isn’t limited to your home.

If you want to get really technical, hospitality is making an uninvited stranger feel welcome in the space where God has placed you, no matter where that is. It can mean welcoming a stranger into your office at work. It can mean extending a warm greeting to a new face at church. It can mean putting your briefcase in your lap on the bus so someone can sit next to you. There are hundreds of other examples.

Halloween is a magnificent opportunity to show the love of Christ to strangers, which moves us much closer to the true definition of hospitality. Sure, these passing strangers are dressed funny and are lugging candy-filled pillow cases. But consider that no other 2-hour window during the year affords us such an obvious opportunity to reflect the glory of Christ to our community.

Each year has been a little different. Sometimes we hand out candy, some years we have also included an invitation card to our church, lately very few kids come to our house but we go door-to-door with our kids and get to know more of our neighbors. We practice manners, saying “please” and “thank you,” and we try to build on relationships. It is subtle. Our job is to love without condition. God will grant the fruit in His providence.

It was only a few years ago that God helped us to see that as believers, we had something of infinite value to offer to the witches, goblins, super heroes and scarecrows — and their parents — who graced our front door every year. We realized that removing ourselves from trick-or-treat was a terrible mistake. We were wasting an opportunity to simply show the love of Christ, drop an invitation to church into their pillow case — and who knows, maybe even start a conversation that leads to sharing the Gospel.

So this year, will you consider how you can extend hospitality through the opportunity of Halloween? If children go door-to-door in  your neighborhood, don’t retreat to the back bedroom or the basement. Host your neighbors for pizza and games. Invite those around you in. Do everything you can to make your house an outpost of heaven — and your life a salty seasoning to your lost neighbors who need Christ. You won’t have this easy an opportunity until next year.