Pagan holidays in the Bible?
When certain celebrations come to culture, many Christians (some with genuine zeal and good intentions) affirm that such a holiday is “pagan” or “unclean” and that is why we must discard it. They also judge (many times unfairly) other Christians who do celebrate such days.
Let’s think about this a little. First, we should define what it means for something to be “pagan.”
Paganism refers to the practice of honouring a created object (or a created god) instead of giving it the honour and place that God owes.
Two things derive from this:
First, there are no pagan “things.” Paganism derives from place and INTENTION in people’s hearts when executing a particular activity. I want to emphasize this point. PAGANISM IS AN ATTITUDE OF THE HEART and therefore, to know if a practice is pagan or not, it is necessary to see the intention of the heart. This is the centre of the problem.
Paganism is an attitude of the heart and therefore, to know if a practice is pagan or not, it is necessary to see the intention of the heart.
For example, I have been asked if burning incense is prohibited by Christianity. Since the Bible does not prevent such activity, the next step is to know the INTENTION of the person when burning incense. There are two typical responses that I can receive:
The person could answer that he likes the perfume of incense.
On the other hand, I could answer that incense drives away “evil spirits.”
Let’s see what the intention is in each case: In the first, the aim is to enjoy the aroma of incense. There is nothing in the Bible that prohibits this. Therefore, it is allowed. But if someone wishes to abstain, it is also allowed. This is a matter of personal preference and conscience.
In the second case, the intention is to exercise a practice contrary to the Bible: that is, the person intends to interact with evil spirits in a wrong way because only God has power over unclean spirits. It is through the power of Christ to be exorcised. Not through the use of flavourings. This is paganism because the person is removing the place that belongs to God and instead of using the incense.
The apostle Paul agrees: In his letter to the Romans, he writes that Christians should stop judging each other, without being right, for these customs of “unclean” origin. This is what Paul says:
“Therefore, let us no longer judge each other, but rather decide this: do not put an obstacle or stumbling block on the brother. I know, and I am convinced in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself; but for the one who estimates that something is unclean, for him it is”. Rom. 14: 13-14.
I want to emphasize three aspects of this:
First, Christians must stop judging ourselves for these questions of intention and conscience. It is not productive.
Second, Paul himself affirms that “NOTHING IS IMMUNDO IN HIMSELF”. God is the creator of all things and every day. Neither words nor days are unclean or pagan by themselves but by the INTENTION that people confer upon them.
Third: Paul also says that we are not an obstacle or stumbling block. That is: people do not turn away from the gospel when they see us participate in some activity. Paul argues that if a person’s faith is going to falter when they see you participate in an event, you better not do it. However, almost all Christians understand this as “I am offended that you celebrate Christmas. Therefore, you should stop doing it.” Paul never argued like that. If it offends you that your Christian neighbour puts a Christmas tree, examine your own heart to see what’s wrong with you.
So far, I have not met anyone whose faith has faltered by putting an ornament in their house or celebrating that Jesus was born. But I have seen many people falter in their hope for the legalism of fundamentalist Christians at war with an ornament that does not affect the purity of the gospel.
Friends and brothers, I beg you to stop judging other believers who love the celebration of Christmas or like to put a Christmas tree (or anything similar) in your home because these things are neither pagan nor unclean unless the INTENTION of the people to celebrate this is linked to take away the honour of God. The first Christians began to celebrate Christmas to honour God and the birth of Christ. When I put a Christmas tree, I am not praising any god of antiquity. It is an ornament! And since the Bible does not prescribe celebrating Jesus’ birth, one can quietly refrain from doing so if he pleases.
I feel so sad and sad that Paul is clear on these points, but that we Christians continue to judge others for putting on an ornament or for honouring the sacrifice and birth of Christ.
If you are going to judge someone for participating in a practice or celebration, you first need to know the intent of their heart. Otherwise, you will be judged unfairly.
Christmas is neither unclean nor pagan. Of this, I have written in detail, and I will not repeat it here.
If you believe that an X celebration is pagan or unclean, it is because you have conferred that value on it and you have the right to abstain. But let’s stop judging other brothers unless we know the intentions of their hearts. If we do, we have done nothing but fall into legalism and cause division by an issue that is not of central doctrine and of which the same word of God tells us: “nothing is unclean in itself .”
Christ has given us the freedom to worship him in spirit and truth. Let’s not put on the chains of religiosity and legalism from which he has freed us. If you are going to judge someone for participating in a practice or celebration, you first need to know the intent of their heart. Otherwise, you will be judged unfairly.
Do not judge according to appearances, but judge with just judgment. John 7:24