NASHVILLE (BP) -- Christians have long had differing views on how to approach Halloween. But Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear said in a recent podcast that the holiday doesn't have to be divisive -- in fact, it can be a great way to get to know your neighbors.
"Some participate and some don't, but all can redeem -- that is, we can use it for evangelism," Greear said on his "Ask Me Anything" podcast.
Halloween is probably the only day of the year that your neighbors are knocking on your door, he said. "I don't know if you're like me, but I actually need more opportunities to connect with my neighbors, because the tendency of neighborhoods now is to kind of be cloistered in your own little house."
So last year on Halloween, Greear sat at the end of his driveway on Halloween night, passing out candy and talking with his neighbors as they came by.
He noted that Rosaria Butterfield, author of "The Gospel Comes With a House Key," said that the majority of evangelism is "simply learning to be a good neighbor."
"Just be a good neighbor to other people," Greear said, "and when you're a good neighbor, you'll find evangelism opportunities just sort of multiply right in front of you. Halloween is a good time to be a really good neighbor."
And when it comes to deciding how you or your children observe the holiday yourself, Greear said Romans 14 is a good guide. In that passage, Paul addresses the issue of eating meat that's been sacrificed to idols and says it's an issue of conscience -- each person should do as their conscience directs them and not judge others.
The question of Halloween is similar, Greear said. Some people feel their conscience won't let them participate because they feel it ties them to the holiday's pagan history. If that's you, he said, don't do it -- but don't look down on people who can participate with a clear conscience.
And vice versa -- if your family feels that your celebration of Halloween is innocent, don't judge those who choose to stay away, he said.
"I feel like this is one of those issues where we really do have to respect where the other person is coming from in this," Greear said.
"There needs to be a level of respect and to leave one another, like Paul says … in trust and leave us to conscience and to God."
He said he loves what Ed Stetzer -- executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College -- says about it, that no matter which way you decide to go, "the one thing you absolutely should not do is overlook how good of a potential outreach this is for people coming to your house."
Whether or not you participate, you can redeem it, Greear said. "Just get to know people, connect with them and love them."
To listen to the full podcast, visit jdgreear.com/askmeanything/christians-celebrate-halloween.