Mardi Gras is harmless, it’s a Christian holiday…isn’t it?
Should Christians celebrate Mardi Gras? Christians should not celebrate Mardi Gras because it encourages people to take God’s grace in vain and to give in freely to the desires of the flesh. Its origins are not Christian and God does not accept acts of worship that were intended for other gods. It encourages false worship and a positive view of sin that are highly abhorred by God.
I had never really known the purpose of Mardi Gras, it wasn’t important in my house growing up. So when I was asked if it was ok to celebrate, I wasn’t sure of my answer. Now that I have figured it out, I hope what I’ve learned can help you. Let’s start at the beginning…
What is Mardi Gras?
In order to understand Mardi Gras, you first need to understand the concept of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Easter recognized by Roman Catholics and some protestant churches.
Mardi Gras is technically celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent begins, however, these celebrations have also taken over the weekend prior to Lent as well.
The point of Mardi Gras is to overindulge yourself in whatever sinful behavior you want before you begin fasting. In America, it is often marked by colorful floats, alcohol, parades, masquerades, and taking in every flesh filled sinful desire you can think of.
Pagan Origin of Mardi Gras
The origin of Mardi Gras goes far beyond that of the Roman Catholic church and is actually thought to have origins in Roman festivals like Saturnalia and Lupercalia.
Lupercalia was a celebration of “Lupercus” a Roman god of fertility and preceded 40 days of fasting. Some of the modern-day traditions such as costumes and masks come from this celebration.
It is thought that as pagans converted to Christianity they didn’t want to give up this festival so the early Roman Catholic church decided to “Christianize” it and make it part of their religious calendar. This became Carnival which then became Mardi Gras.
So, in fact, neither Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and Ash Wednesday are in the Bible and are all “Christianized” pagan events.
Attitude of Mardi Gras
Aside from the pagan roots of this celebration, there are some more concerns about celebrating this holiday.
The attitude of Mardi Gras is basically this: I am going to indulge in sin as much as I want before I give up the desires of my flesh and repent. It also includes ideas such as “sin as much as possible so that we can make the most of our repentance,” and a “sin now, repent later” philosophy.
This attitude takes advantage of God’s grace and mercy in our lives and mocks his sacrifice on the cross. It is a slap to his face.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!Romans 6:1-2
What Does the Bible Say About it?
The Bible has a lot to say about this including topics like pagan traditions, sin, repentance, the law, and worship. Let’s take some time to understand each of them.
Do Not Adopt Pagan Traditions
The Bible is filled with stories of Israelite battles against the enemies of God and, in each victory, God gives the Israelites some specific instruction. God prohibits the Israelites from “borrowing” pagan traditions in order to worship him.
Practices such as child sacrifice were not uncommon among pagan religions of the time and practices such as these were abhorrent to God, and he did not want his holy people to be defiled by such a practice and others like it.
When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘
How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.Deuteronomy 12:29-31
God Hates Sin
God hates sin in all its forms, and therefore, would not condone a holiday that promotes giving in to all the desires of the flesh. Sin is what creates a division between God and his creation. He sacrificed his only son to get that relationship back.
You cannot continue to walk in a life of sin and bondage to your flesh and still remain in Christ. When you abide in Christ you allow the Holy Spirit to mold you. You deny your flesh and instead take up your cross to follow Jesus.
Abstain from every form of evil.1 Thessalonians 5:22
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.1 John 3:6-8a ESV
Ever since God’s grace came to earth through Jesus, people have tried to exploit it for their own gain. They convince themselves and others that they can do whatever their flesh desires and as long as they repent later.
This is not the purpose of grace. God’s grace is intended for those who desire a relationship with him but are kept from him due to their sin. Grace provides a way to bridge that gap.
However, when you try to apply that grace in vain, you are dismissing the cross and essentially saying that you deserve grace, or think that you can trick God into giving it to you. This is not true repentance.
Psalm 51 describes the requirements for true repentance: a broken and contrite heart. When we come before God we need to come with a humble spirit that is truly mournful of our sin.
We need to recognize that our sin is contrary to the desires of the Father and want to exchange our ways for his. This is a true heart of repentance.
We need to come with the purpose of rectifying our relationship with him which is broken when we allow sin into our lives.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;Psalm 51:17
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Worship God in Spirit and Truth
This topic somewhat reiterates the ideas about pagan worship above. It is important that we take the time to worship God in the way he desires to be worshiped.
God does not care about the ways that other people worshiped their gods. He wants to be worshiped “in spirit and truth.”
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:23-24 ESV
Why It Matters
It is important to understand this topic so that you can exercise wisdom and discernment when this holiday rolls around.
Ultimately, Mardi Gras is not a holiday that is in line with the heart of the Lord or His Word. It does not bring honor and glory to his name. Instead, it throws his Son’s sacrifice back in his face.
However, by taking the time to learn about it, you can now make an educated decision for yourself. Now you are ready to supply an answer when people ask you about Mardi Gras.