This is not a column about Halloween.
So I’ll waste no energy arguing whether Christians should put on masks tonight and, however giddy or gruesome, beg for candy.
You make that call.
No, I’m more concerned about the mask you’ll wear after tonight. You know – the one that keeps folks from knowing you have fears, problems, imperfections, needs.
The mask you’d love to take off, if only you could.
If you’re normal, you have not one mask, but an arsenal. There’s the mask that helps you say, “Fine,” when someone asks how you’re doing – even though you’re hurting.
There’s the mask that pretends you’ve got all the answers, even though you’re uncertain, scared, insecure. And, of course, there’s the mask that suggests to others your life is all neat and tidy, never mind that it’s a bit messed up.
Here’s the truth: Christianity is a great unmasking of people. At the cross of Jesus Christ, people of all stripes are compelled to take off their masks and reveal who they really are: pitiful sinners in need of God’s grace.
And all who come to the cross repenting of sin, seeking that grace, are well rewarded: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – NKJV).
At the cross, sin is forgiven – equally, without discrimination.
But sin’s symptoms still follow us around: pride, vanity, fear. So we reach for those masks to keep people from seeing a truth they already know intuitively.
Yes, they know we’re imperfect people, sinners saved by grace, but we sure don’t want them seeing the gory details. That’s what the masks are for:
Pride’s mask keeps us from admitting to fellow Christians that we sometimes fight with our spouses.
Vanity’s mask keeps us buying things on credit, rather than living within our means, so others will think we’re prospering.
Fear’s mask keeps us from revealing our true selves: After all, what if we’re not accepted?
At times we cling so tightly to these masks that we use them even when we pray together. Does it seem to you that often we share prayer needs that are safe, common to us all?
We pray for healing, courage, wisdom. That’s the safe stuff.
But how often do we hear ourselves confess sin to one another, admit personal failure, weakness or insecurity? Not nearly as often.
The trouble with these masks we wear is they rob us of experiencing God’s best. God has brought us into a loving community – the church – where redeemed people can and should be genuine.
I have a dear friend who has the radical audacity to speak openly of his mistakes and worries. He does not hesitate to tell others, gently, when they are wrong. What’s true and right is more important to him than what someone else thinks of him.
His raw honesty is both surprising, and refreshing. I’ve noticed that others feel safe being vulnerable in front of him – if he can do it, so can they.
Unmasking pays great dividends.
It is in this climate of vulnerability, honesty and genuineness that God’s people learn to trust each other, support each other, help each other and even correct each other.
Once the masks come off, true friendship grows. This is God’s way: “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 15:9 – NKJV).
Tonight, many kids will experience the fun of pretending to be someone or something they are not. But soon it will be over.
Could it be that the rest of us have masks to remove as well?