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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Holidays and Sabbaths

Question:

Aaron,

Got one for you.

Should Christians celebrate unbiblical holidays like Christmas and Easter given that the holidays that they were based on were pagan holidays?

If we celebrate with the right intentions, does it make it alright? Or, is it harmless and a matter of celebrating holidays that are part of our culture? Or, should we avoid these holidays completely because of their pagan roots?

Furthermore/additionally, how should we as Christians respond to the regulations of Jewish law given that Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it? I am familiar with the passage regarding the decision the early believers came to regarding no eating blood, no sexual sin and no strangled animals. Is that all of the Jewish law that we can be expected to follow? Then why do many believers feel like tithing is a command since it comes from the Old Covenant system?

Perhaps you have addressed some of these before; feel free to direct me to older responses to these questions if the responses already exist.

Answer:

Toby,

Thank you for your questions. Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you. Since you've asked me two different questions, I'll have to give an answer to each one separately.

As to the first question of should a Christian celebrate holidays with pagan roots, I'll give the answer a qualified yes. The reason I qualify my answer is because I think the answer is up to the individual. I've met sincere Christians who refuse to celebrate Christmas and Easter for the very reasons you've mentioned and I think that for them, they shouldn't celebrate these holidays because they would be violating their conscience in doing so and the Bible tells us, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

A good frame of reference for this question is I Corinthians chapter 8. In this chapter Paul deals with the question of whether Christians could eat meat sold in the meat market that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul makes it clear that idols are actually nothing (Vs 4-5) so there's really no problem eating food previously offered to idols (Vs 8), that is, unless someone eats with the consciousness of the idol and, thus defiles their conscience (Vs 7,10,11). Paul makes it clear that those who eat the meat are no better and neither are those who refuse to eat the meat any worse (Vs 8). In other words, it's a matter of individual choice.

I think the same thing applies to the holidays with pagan roots. I think if we asked Paul this question, he would answer with something along the lines of, "Well, when you celebrate Christmas and Easter, are you celebrating the birth and resurrection of Jesus or are you participating in a pagan ritual to celebrate the change of seasons?" If you're not actually worshiping a pagan god, or feel that you are doing so, then I say deck the halls and pass the egg nog! (See also Romans 14:1-6).

As to the second question, I'll give you a much more direct answer. The answer is a Christian isn't obligated to follow any of the Jewish Law except for that which is reinforced in the New Testament. According to the writer of Hebrews, the entire Old Covenant is, and I quote, "obsolete" (Hebrews 8:13). A believer is not under the law of Moses, but under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2)(John1:17). There are tons of verses in the New Testament that say either the law has been cancelled (Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14) or that the believer is no longer under the law (Galatians 5:1-5, Romans 6:14) Romans 7:13 even goes so far as to say that a Christian is "delivered" from the law.

Notice also Colossians 2:16-17 which says, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." Those who think they are more spiritual than other Christians because they follow Jewish festivals, kosher laws, and sabbaths (I've seen a few TBN preachers that emphasize these things heavily) are flat mistaken!

As to why are there so many Christians who feel that tithing is the 11th commandment next to thou shalt not drink a marguarita, I think it's because they spend more time watching American Idol than reading the Bible.

I hope this helped.

Keep the faith!

3 comments:

Pete said...

Aaron,
Your last paragraph is a thing of beauty and hits the true core of these problems. When you have something fragile, you tend to surround it with a little bit of cushion and then some hard outer packaging. Too many fragile Christians, have surrounded their beliefs with a "everything makes me happy" layer of fluff and then surround that with some iron clad rules that they have imposed to protect the rest.
My $.02,
Pete

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Thanks Pete.

Aaron

toby said...

Aaron, thanks. Great response. Interesting name change on the blog.