Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. (James Baldwin)
Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town. (Luke 12:1-3)
A great many of us fear being 'exposed' for who we really are - believing ourselves to be unwanted, unappreciated, and perhaps even under-valued - so we hide behind some mask. What's worse is that Christian believers hide behind a mask of 'religious piety', all the while attempting to hide their very real struggles looming just behind that 'pious hypocrisy'. I know these are strong words this morning, but I did this for many years, so I am the first to admit my own sin! We cannot hide our real selves behind a mask of religion. All that does is terribly confuse those who are observing our lives for the evidence of the difference Christ can make in a life lived for him.
The point Jesus made all those years ago remains true today. The Pharisee paraded their piety in an attempt to be 'judged' as worthy or important. What they failed to recognize was the inadequacies of good works and 'religious performance'. The point Jesus made was one of relationship - learning to be 'real' at all times and allowing God to express his goodness through us even when we don't always do or say the right things all of the time. He was asking us to be 'truthful' with ourselves and others. In other words, don't conceal our shortcomings behind cleverly created 'religious masks'.
I am probably going to step on some toes here, but I am going to do it anyway. Have you ever been around someone who is so 'heavenly minded' that they are no 'earthly good'? They say all the right 'phrases' like, "Be Blessed", "Praise God", and "May God be Glorified". Life is coming at us pretty hot and heavy, but somehow those words don't 'ring true' in the moment. The fact is we needed to hear, "I am here for you. What can I do to help you right now?" We needed to see faith put into action. We likely really needed to hear them admit they struggle with similar doubts, fears, or misplaced trust, so we didn't feel like we would never get our life together.
I will be the first to admit it - I don't have my life together. I don't have all the answers, but I am willing to live this life right there alongside others of you who also don't have your lives together. I am willing to roll up my sleeves, get a little dirty, and even pull you along when you don't want to move. I need others in my life who will the do the same for me. That requires you and I to rid ourselves of our religious masks and just get real with each other. It may not seem like much, but when we are open with each other, God can move amongst us - using each one of us to be his messengers of grace. Just sayin!
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