TAKE OFF YOUR MASK
Written by Sean Pyle on March 13, 2013
A History of Hiding Ourselves
Masks were originally intended to be used as a way of concealing your true identity. They started as a means of depicting various characters in the theatre and quickly became popular as everyday disguises for interacting with different social classes, for romantic affairs and for whenever anonymity were needed.
Today masks are still used in similar fashion, whether in movies, plays, costume parties or masquerade balls (yes, they still have those). The fun of a mask is that allows you to pretend to be someone else—anyone else—while you are wearing it.
“But,” you may say, “I don’t wear masks. So what does this have to do with me?”
While we may not wear physical masks for anything but our annual Halloween parties, the longing to hide ourselves is something we all feel. In fact, we have been doing that since the beginning of human history. Immediately after sinning against God, Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from him in the garden (Gen. 3:8-10). Their sin also made them self-conscious in the very worst way. For the first time they felt shame and fear of exposure, so they hid themselves from the one person who could actually help.
Things don’t improve much from there. The story of Israel is filled with people who hide their sin from one another, from the authorities, and—as if they could—even from God himself. All of Israel followed in Adam’s footsteps.
Later in the Bible one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, continues the trend. He was a member of Jesus’ inner circle and a leader among the disciples. Yet when he was asked about his relationship with Jesus, he denied that he even knew him. On three occasions he choose to lie in the hopes of concealing his identity, rather than being exposed for who he actually was.
This reality is that we’re not any different than Adam, Israel, or Peter. Just like them, the mask we wear isn’t a physical mask. We don’t go around covering our faces. But we do go around trying to conceal our hearts.
Your Mask is Killing You
If you have spent some time in a church that loves the gospel, you will quickly discover that they talk a lot about the importance of something called accountability. The church is a family, after all. It’s a people with whom we can be honest without fear of harsh condemnation. Instead we can expect to receive grace, love, and help from our brothers and sisters.
Even among people like that, however, we still feel strong desires to keep things close to the chest. We’re slow to make others aware of our personal struggles, and we are often afraid of confessing our sins.
After years of living that way, you will begin to become a master mask-wearer. No one knows who you really are, because you never let anyone into your life. Instead, you have become an expert at trading more obvious sins for other sins that are easier to hide.
Of course, everyone knows that we aren’t perfect. So we have to confess something. That’s why after years of being part of a church family, it’s all-too-common to hear people confessing sins like “I’ve been inconsistent in my devotional life recently,” or, “I’m struggling to give everything to God.”
Even if there is some truth in our ambiguous confessions, the problem is that we use these “small” sins like a screen—a mask—to prevent others from knowing about serious sin struggles in our lives.
“They can’t find out about my addiction to alcohol. They’d judge me.”
“If they knew that I looked at pornography every day for the last five years, they’d think I was gross or something.”
“If they knew how greedy and selfish I am, these people wouldn’t be my friends.”
At the end of the day, our basic problem is that we don’t want others to know that we don’t have our lives together. We don’t want people to really know that you need a Savior.
When you think and live like that, you’re wearing a mask. It’s not a mask that covers your face; it’s one that covers your heart. And instead of being made of plastic or plaster or wood, your mask is composed of fear and pride. Your pride tells you that you are better than you really are, and that no one has the right to correct you. Your fear tells you that if you are found out, then no one would love us or accept you. Pride and fear lead you to conceal your true identity as a flawed and sinful person. It makes you feel safe from judgment and safe from rejection, but in reality, your mask is killing you.
Jesus Sees through Your Mask
A popular music artist once explained that the best thing that could happen to any of us is that our sins would be exposed—completely exposed—on the 6 o’clock news. If everyone knew your deepest, darkest sins and struggles, you wouldn’t have to try to hide anymore. Indeed, there would be nowhere for you to hide anymore. No mask would be able conceal your true identity. Everyone would know you for who you really are.
That sounds like the stuff that nightmares are made of, but not to people who deeply trust Jesus. Think about it. The truth is, Jesus does know you for who you really are. He sees right through your mask. Your deepest struggles and darkest sins have been fully exposed to Jesus.
But here’s the best part: he’s forgiven you. The one person in the world who knows you best of all (better than you do, since there are things you’re not even willing to admit to yourself), still loves you and accepts you in spite of your many sins.
That was what his death and resurrection were all about, after all. He didn’t come to rescue people who pretended like they were healthy. He came to save those who know they are sick and in need of help (Matt. 19:12).
If you believe that Jesus sees you, but loves you in spite of your sin because he died to forgive you, then you’re life will be forever changed. You don’t have to lie to yourself about your flaws, faults, and sins. You no longer have to be afraid of what others would think if they truly knew you, either, since the person who matters most of all (Jesus) has already loved and accepted you in spite of your sins. This means we no longer have to conceal our true identity from others.
Jesus has freed you from your mask! He has called you be a part of a community of redeemed individuals that love each other (Jn. 13:34-35), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1), forgive each other (Eph. 4:32), encourage one another (Heb. 3:13), and confess sins to each other (James 5:16). Remember, the beauty of salvation is that all your worth is found in Jesus! He has covered you in the robe of his righteousness (Is. 61:10). Your new identity is found in Jesus and what he has done for you. The church is a family, your family, so take off your mask, get honest about yourself, and begin to experience the freedom from guilt that comes from those who truly believe that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Sean Pyle is the Executive Pastor of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he is responsible for administrative oversight of many of the church’s day-to-day affairs. His business savvy, his penchant for style, and his athletic past make Sean a combination of Donald Trump, Justin Timberlake, and Steve Nash. Follow him on Twitter @seanpyle.