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Taking off the mask

People love to wear costumes. There is great excitement and energy and safety in hiding behind a mask, pretending to be someone else, if just for the night. Yet, most Christians walk around wearing a mask all the time. We’ve created this culture where we hide our real selves from one another, afraid of what would happen if someone knew that we had some dark junk inside of us. No, it’s much safer to wear a mask, pretending we are perfect little Christians with perfect little families and perfect little plastic smiles.

Twice yesterday I actually made the same comment. “I like hanging out with nonChristians. They don’t feel like they need to wear a mask. They are much more real.” And, for the most part, that’s true. Not that I like or approve of the stuff that unbelievers do, but at least they’re not hiding it. That’s when, yesterday, I made a comment that really struck me…

Yeah, I believe in total depravity, but I don’t want Damon (a co-worker) to know I’m a sinner.

Hmm. I had never articulated it that way, but even as the words rolled off my lips I sensed the magnitude of that comment. We claim to believe that in total depravity – that, through Adam, sin has come to all of us and that we are all in the same boat (as per Ephesians 2 in The Message). But we would never want a co-worker, a friend or even our spouse to know the junk stored up inside of us that eats away at us day after day.

Hear and be encouraged by the words of Paul…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

Christ has set you free.  Live in that freedom! The key to living in that freedom is to take off the mask. Sin loves the darkness but dies in the light. Find someone or a couple of people to whom you grant carte-blanche to the deepest recesses of your heart. Then you will experience the life and freedom for which Christ died.

Interact: In what area of your life do you need to take off the mask? Who can you share your deep stuff with, knowing they will pour grace and freedom over you?


15 Responses

  1. Great post. If you haven’t read it, check out a book titled “TrueFaced” by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. It’s good stuff!

  2. I think the key question is, “With whom can we be real?” I know I’m preaching to the choir when I affirm that the very ministries we’re a part of where we proclaim values of authenticity and genuineness would rather not hear us when we’re broken – I mean really broken. I’m not talking about the fundamentalist guy on the men’s retreat who confessed to our group that he has a problem with cursing, mostly when he’s not around other people. I’m talking about the things that destroy lives and bind us with shame, paralyzing our ability to lead as God intends us to lead, to live with the paradoxical freedom found in obedience and discipline.

    What I didn’t know how to cultivate a decade ago has now become one of my leadership fundamentals. I live in transparent community with a carefully chosen group of men. We give each other permission to peer deeply into each other’s lives, to support and encourage, and to call into accountability. I will only make brief mention that in some evangelical circles, this notion of “accountability” has become tainted with a false piety, a game of keeping up appearances. Please forgive my brief and inadequate disambiguation, in that I intend to call attention to a way of living in community that often escapes leaders in the church. And I’m very late to arrive to the party. I was isolated even amongst the crowd and colleagues. It took me some tough lessons to learn how to cultivate genuine, honest community.

    If honesty, transparency, and trust are only given lip service in the communities of Christ-followers we’re building, we have to stop and reevaluate who we claim to be. Often the product of ministry itself becomes an idol and betrays the very process of being the hands and feet of Christ.

    • Cavett– Reading your comment, two main thoughts came to mine.

      1) Accountability – In most Christian churches, accountability means slapping someone on the wrist and telling them to do better next time. Is there any life change and transformation in that? Doubtful

      2) With whom can we be real? – Especiallyfor those of us who draw a paycheck from our ministry work, this is major concern. Some can’t be trusted and some shouldn’t be trusted. We need to hand-pick each person with whom we provide that level of access to our heart.

      Unfortunately, because the possibility of being stabbed in the back or hurt is so real, most professional Christians choose not to grant anyone that level of access. And that is no way to live. Choose carefully. Choose wisely. But definitely choose these people because the consequences of not doing so are way worse…

  3. Really great conversation about “taking off the mask.”

    My question simply-stated is: Why???

    Why do we really feel that we must be so very careful and fearful about whom we believe we can be real with??? I don’t understand this?
    Why would we expect anyone else to live “true-faced,” if leaders are afraid be real and live transparently before their flocks?

    John Piper gave a great sermon on “Why not rather be wronged?” at Peacemaker Ministries which raises the bar for me: http://bookstore.peacemaker.net/blog/?p=220

    One of the key points is that the Gospel tells us that the justice problem is solved: For those who are in Christ, God forgave their sins on the cross at the cost of the Son’s life. If a person is not found in Christ, they will be found in hell where their sins will be punished eternally.

    So why should we fear being wronged by others? Just a question…

    • My first initial thought to your comment was, “Because I have a mortgage to pay!” Richard Pratt, former prof of OT at RTS, used say, “If you make your living by your faith, you’ll lose one or the other.” Good or bad, I have a mortgage to pay and it would be irresponsible of me to recklessly jeopardize that.

      But, more to the point, there is an important distinction between being real and letting someone have unfiltered access into your life. I want men around me who will push me and call me to holiness. There are few people who I trust with that task. Not everyone will have that goal in mind in trying to see my junk.

  4. Methinks fear has put an end to the quest for Purple Cow remarkableness? Drats. I was starting to get excited.

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  6. I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis yesterday and he actually writes about the mask that Christians wear and makes some really good points that I thought I’d share. On the one hand, he recognizes that wearing a mask can cause us to become more hypocritical with each other and lose authenticity, which is what we’re talking about.

    On the other side, he says that we should put on the mask of Christ, even though we are not fully Christ-like right now. He gives the illustration of a fairy tale in which a man is so unattractive that he can’t get any friends and is socially shunned. So in order to change his appearance he puts on a mask and wears it for years and years and years. After a very long period has past, he is forced to remove the mask and his face has actually been conformed into the image of the mask and he actually looks like the mask.

    Lewis’ point is that sometimes we have to start off by pretending to be what we are becoming, so that we will become it. In some circles they will call this: “Fake it ’til you make it.”

    So we take off the mask of our own works righteousness in order to reveal authenticity, but not in order to remain unchanged. In order to shaped into image of Christ’s glory, we do need to put on the so-called mask of Christ (which is not our works, but our reliance on Him that he guarantees we will be made more like Him as we persevere in faith.

    I just thought this added an interesting dimension to the “Taking Off the Mask” topic.

    • Paul uses the concept of putting off and putting in several of his letters, but Colossians 3:9-10 states it most clearly. “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the image of the Creator.” We are to put on the new self in Christ, to wear the mask of Christ.

      I like that picture of putting on the mask of Christ from Lewis. Unfortunately, IMHO, we put on the mask of “nice.” In the American Christian sub-culture, we seem bent on making people good and safe, and not radical and dangerous disciples. As such, we are afraid to let anyone know when we are hurting and dishonest about our struggles. That mask of niceness needs to go…


  8. Great website and conversation. I actually happened across it while looking (unsuccessfully) for a book, written by a pastor, about auntheticity including from the pulpit. I thought it was called “Taking the cover off” or “taking the mask off” or something. Would you happen to be familiar with the book that I speak of?

    • Much has been written about in recent years on authenticity, especially among pastors. Unfortunately, not sure which specifically you are thinking about. I hope this article was helpful for you though.

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