Are All Lawful Things Expedient?
K E. Clayton
If one were to live in an area of the country where customs and social amenities were quite different from what one was accustomed, then one would have to modify his personal behavior to the socially accepted form. The old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is never more necessary than in the life of the child of God. The Christian must be accepted in the society he is living in, if he is to be an effective worker for the Lord and win many souls for the cause of Jesus the Christ. The Christian's behavior must be righteous unto God and acceptable to the public, simultaneously. This, at times, poses a dilemma. For instance, if I were to move to a community which was predominantly Mennonite, I certainly would not allow my wife to wear lipstick, knowing the convictions the Mennonites have against such cosmetics. In contrast to that, there are times that I would not practice a particular activity, even though most of the people I associate with practice that activity. One type of behavior that comes to mind is the attendance and participation of social drinking parties or visiting bars (even though no alcohol is consumed). I think most of us would agree that even if 90 per cent of the people we associate with frequent this type of place, it would be detrimental for the child of God, and his good influence, to be seen at such places. The apostle Paul spoke of the balance point between these two cases in 1 Cor. 9:19-23 and Romans 12:2. There are times when we can conform to the world and times when we cannot. The Christian's task is to rightly decide which things are or are not expedient.
It is widely known and accepted that Christmas and Easter had extremely dubious beginnings that smacked of pagan worship (indeed, were pagan practices). Such things as orgies and beheadings were central to the earlier practices. Most know of the idolatrous practices adopted by the Catholic church as being part of "Christian" doctrine. It must also be recognized that none of the pagan connotations remain in this present day, but, what does remain is the religious significance that the vast majority of the denominations place on these "holy" days. For the Christian to participate in these celebrations, as a matter of religion, would certainly be spiritual fornication. God has not approved of such keeping of "holy" days in His inspired word, the Bible. It is possible for the Christian to celebrate Christmas and Easter as national holidays, without any religious significance; but, the question for consideration is, should he?
There is some confusion, in my mind, whether Christmas and Easter are national "holidays" or "national" holy days. I say that because if you were to read the newspapers, attend school functions, attend denominational ceremonies, or watch television near December 25th, you would see a deluge of information regarding Christmas as a "holy" day," observed by all "Christians"! Professed "Christians" in most of the denominations portray Christmas as an integral part of the faith Christ authored. Certainly, the proliferations of this belief will vary with the strength of the Catholic church and various amenable denominations in a particular area. The point is, if you live in an area where this belief is prevalent (such as Vermont), then you must consider the expediency of participating in such activities, even though you are free to celebrate these days as holidays rather than holy days.
In certain areas of the world, one's influence can be seriously harmed by celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter. One can always influence people to an amiable relationship by joining in whatever they are doing; however, we need to be discerning about what we are trying to influence people to do. We should be trying to influence people to leave their idolatrous error-filled past, yes, to win them for Christ. I doubt, seriously, if we are winning anyone by doing, what appears to them, exactly the same thing as they are doing. When we put up all the "trappings" of a denominational Christmas celebration, then we are not influencing them to leave their practices. An illustrative example could be a person who is opposed to $200 per plate fund-raising dinners. This person feels that such activities fly in the face of prudence. Then, someone gives this person a free ticket to attend such an event, and this person goes -though he has not purchased the tickets! He would seem to those seeing him at the meal as being very hypocritical; moreover, he certainly would not be a very effective crusader with other people purchasing tickets to go to those type dinners. In short, he has ruined his ethos.
What about the newly converted Christian who would have serious problems "taking Christ out of Christmas," especially when he continues to celebrate Christmas with nearly the same trappings he had for the previous 25-30 years. I think we present a stumbling block to those souls when we glibly say that we should celebrate Christmas as a holiday! What if he cannot make the separation and stumbles back into idolatry as a result? No, I cannot advocate that the Christian should celebrate Christmas and Easter because of the foregoing prospective results of such action.
Many of my brethren have relegated the whole matter to be similar to the question regarding the eating of certain meats (Rom. 14:15). This similarity is both accurate and inaccurate, depending on the situation being examined. If you are drawing the parallel between two brothers, one who eats such meats and one who does not, and two brothers, one who celebrates Christmas and one who does not, then you might have an applicable parallel. The instance when the parallel would be valid is when the brother who celebrates Christmas does so, even though the other brother has conscience problems with the practice (such as the newly converted brother mentioned earlier). In this case, the celebration of Christmas should not be undertaken, in deference to the weaker brother (the brother with different sincere convictions). The inaccuracy of the comparison between the celebration of Christmas and the eating of meats stems from one basic difference. The fact is, Christmas celebrations have been carried on by people wearing the name of "Christian" (members of the denominations); what is more, the denominations have incorporated said celebrations as part of advertised "Christian" doctrine. Thus was not the case with the eating of meats sacrificed to idols.
When I was in high school I was in contact with some Christians who celebrate Christmas. It was not until many years later, after I was converted and met them at an assembly, that I found out that they did not believe in the religious observance of Christmas. Nothing struck me as being different enough about those people to investigate as to why they were Christians or what made them different. They did not appear any different to me-they did not appear to be on any different a road than I was (2 Cor. 6:14-18). How different might it have been if they had not celebrated Christmas? Maybe I would have asked, "How can a Christian not believe in Christmas?" Maybe I would have been converted earlier and maybe I would not have. The fact remains that I was done no favors by the Christians who celebrated Christmas; their lives did not lead me to a communication about Christmas, Christ, salvation, or anything else religious.
I, personally, do not observe any aspect of Christmas that could be construed by friends and relatives to be something. Many times I am asked why, and that, my brethren, leads to many fruitful discussions about truth and non-truth. The continuing discussions never remain on Christmas only. The same people I discuss Christmas with generally consult me about other religious doctrines. Difference from the world, non-conformity (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:14-18), brings forth its fruits.
I conclude with the admonitions given by our brother Paul in Galations 4:8-11. Paul was admonishing some of his brethren who had just come out of idolatry and error. He had this to say in verses 10-11, "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that I have labored over you in vain."
Truth Magazine XXII: 1, pp. 26-27