Is Christmas Christian? Cultural Appropriation

Is it okay for a Christian to celebrate a holiday that has pagan roots? Yes.

We can see a very similar principle in Romans 14 as well as Colossians 2. Paul was dealing with a church that was divided along the lines of those who came out of Judaism and those who had a Pagan background. Those with a Jewish background tended to be more “legalistic” (literally, wanting to follow the Old Covenant law), whereas the Gentiles (and Hellenistic Jews) didn’t really have that much of a hangup. The more conservative Jews were quick to say “do not touch, do not eat, do not drink” those things that were not sanctified.

This issue(s) came to a head because the church would eat together and then some of the more “liberally minded” Christians were bringing meat and wine that had been used in pagan temples or part of pagan worship practices. It was cheaper. This appalled the more strict Jews.

What was Paul’s response? Essentially, he said “keep it to yourself.” Here’s the summary. We are free in Christ to worship however we feel impressed by the Holy Spirit. There are not specific “holy days” and there are not specific “holy ways” to worship. It’s a matter of conscience. Idols are nothing, so it doesn’t matter if something you can benefit from was used previously in pagan worship, if it helps you, go for it, there’s nothing wrong with it!

However, there are some people who have a weaker faith who don’t yet live in that freedom. As a matter of personal conscience, they just can’t bring them to eat meat sacrificed to idols or drink wine used in pagan worship. They have a personal problem with it, so others with a better understanding of their freedom in the New Covenant need to still be sensitive to their brothers and sisters in Christ who aren’t quite there yet.

Those who are more mature need to defer to those who are less mature and think that appropriation of formerly pagan things can somehow hamper their faith.

So what does this say about Christmas? No, there’s no command to observe Christmas in the Bible… yet there was no Hanukkah in the Bible in Jesus’ time either, and yet he still celebrated that secular national holiday (see John 10:22-23). Why would we want to discourage people from celebrating the birth of our Savior?! I sure don’t. But, some do. So it’s fine to state your own convictions, but we also need to be sensitive to those who are under conviction.

Now… to those who would say “Christians should not celebrate Christmas” I would say that you are going too far. You are putting words in God’s mouth that you should not. Just as Paul encouraged the church in the first century, he encourages us as well, keep your convictions to yourself. Don’t hold other Christians to YOUR standards, hold them to God’s standards (i.e. “judge rightly”). And, I’d also say, have a Merry Christmas 🙂

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Nothing Changes (2Peter 3)

“Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Jesus has not returned in the last 1986 years. That’s a long time. Many will look at this (at least from our perspective) “delay” as evidence that He’s not really coming back. In fact, it’s possible He never came in the first place. It seems like everything is always the way it is now, because none of us have anything to compare life to. This is how people take their situation for granted. This is how we end up with college students attending colleges that cost 6-figures thinking they are somehow “oppressed.” Time travel to the Roman coliseum under Nero and we’d realize we are not oppressed. In the same way, we are fooled into thinking people are basically good, because we’ve only ever been raised within a western culture which is a direct expression of the judeo-christian worldview. This is expressed every time someone says of a third world muslim nation “they’re just like us, they want a better life for their children…” No, we’ve simply lost perspective. Life before Jesus was different. Before the Holy Spirit permanently indwelt His people, the world was a much darker place. Imagine no one to convict the world of sin. It was like that. God did break into history, He is working within history now, and He will break-in again. Count on it… in His time, He will. Don’t give up. Be of good courage. Trust Him.

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False Prophets Among The People (2Peter 2)

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

There is a way that seems like it leads to freedom. Live however you want, be free to be “the real you” without the outdated ethics of your parents’ church. These are waterless springs, they have the appearance of substance, but there’s nothing in them. These are headed to destruction, not freedom. Don’t believe their folly. They have the appearance of one who is a leader in the Christian world (bloggers perhaps?) but they are not. If you are overcome by sensual passions, you’ll not be freed, you’ll be enslaved. Don’t fall for the lie. Truth is truth, right is right, that doesn’t change. Follow Jesus, not these false guides.

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Faith Plus… (2Peter 1)

make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

There is, I think, some confusion among some who are under the mistaken impression our faith shouldn’t involve any effort. While true, Jesus is the one who did the work of salvation, we are told to do our best to live rightly. We need to try hard to supplement our faith. Virtue is important. Knowing the truth and being able to think rightly is something we need to strive to do. What we do matters, we are able to control our reactions, and to remain steadfast in those actions and attitudes. Then we’ll be more like God, loving fellow Christians and caring for those around us. It’s not just a ticket to heaven, it’s a life committed to do good.

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United We Stand (Jude)

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

As Christians we’re meant to be unified. We can’t allow the world to get under our skin. We’ve been warned that there will be those who would seek to normalize sexual sin, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. These folks are the grumblers and malcontents who are hoping to follow their own sinful desires, and irritated at anyone who points out (like Paul did) Christians don’t act like that. They’re loud-mouth boasters, actually drawing attention to themselves by posting on Facebook and writing ridiculous blogs telling people “God is now ok with Homosexuality” or broadcasting that they are living with one who is not their spouse and they think it’s a great thing. These people are masquerading as Christians, yet they are “causing divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” For us, we love God, we show mercy to those who doubt God, and by our kindness show them the way… but don’t get sucked in. Hate even the hint of those who would follow their own passions rather than the Lord Jesus Christ.

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