Monday, April 6, 2015

The "Fine" Mask

    I'm going to do something somewhat odd with my next several posts. One of the books that seriously impacted my relationship with Christ was The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall. While I disagree with several things the book says and several of their statements are backed by some rather shaky Biblical foundations, it still spoke volumes about God's grace, love, and acceptance during a period of my life when I had never known that.

    One of the chapters of this book went into detail about a concept it mentions quite frequently throughout, Christian masks. This particular chapter made a huge impact on me, and I wish I was better at transferring that knowledge into application more often! While the concept got me, and I try to apply it, I'm still working on it.

    The concept the authors were writing about is the idea that many, possibly I believe most, Christians live much of their lives, particularly at church, behind a mask, afraid to share who they really are for fear of being seen as unspiritual, sinful, carnal, or immature. I know how often I have worn the mask to cover who I really am and the struggles I face everyday. Even now when I try not to do that and be much more open and honest about the struggles and temptations I face, I still wrestle with it every day. The constant temptation is to put on a mask that portrays me as someone I'm not in the hopes of making myself appear more spiritual or theologically intellectual than I really am.

    Of the three masks the authors discuss, the first is the "fine" mask, the mask that portrays me as "doing fine", "feeling fine", and everyone around me as "fine". We are all just a big, happy bundle of fine. We're all doing fine on our own, thank you!

    The ever-present temptation of the "fine" mask is that it portrays me as someone I'm not. It portrays me as the uber-spiritual, really good, moral teen instead of the genuine, sometimes struggling teen. What this mask does is it disguises my own weakness and temptation, unknowingly building our spiritual pride, all the while hiding and shielding form notice our own faults and shortcomings, while cleverly, though unintentionally, concealing our need for the everyday power of God found through my weakness and deficience.

    What those of us who struggle with the "fine" mask need to realize is that there is no need to hide behind the mask of false spirituality. When we read the words of Paul in Rom. 7, it's abundantly clear that the Christian life, even for a saint like Paul, is filled with temptation and struggle. V. 18-19, Paul makes this incredibly honest statement about the struggle between his two natures, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish."

     Even Paul was daily faced with the struggle of sin, and he confesses there that he failed quite frequently. V. 14-21 are an eloquent statement of the struggle each of us as Christians face, with v. 21 summing it up perfectly when Paul says, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good." Yep, even when we try really hard, we still fail sometimes. We will still fall at times.

    I'm not denying that we will fail or that we will sin and be tempted. Absolutely, temptation is something that will bombard us all day, for days on in, and even Paul couldn't avoid it. However, the answer to this universal problem is not to hide it!

    The authors make a very good point about this problem of us trying to cover our temptations and sometimes sin. In speaking of the guilt following the fall of man in the garden, the book says (p. 30)

    "So Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves. And it worked. No more shame, no more hiding. And they lived happily ever after...

    "Umm.... no.

    "They still hid! This is the earliest recorded result of sin management. It will not work. It hasn't ever worked. When I discover I'm still hiding, that probably should be the hint that whatever I've tried to cover my shame with hasn't taken.

    "It wasn't until they trusted that God did something- providing His own covering for them- that they could be free from hiding and condemnation."

    So many times we try, like Adam and Eve in the garden when God came to talk with them, to hide our sin, cover our guilt. I wonder how much more loving and non-hypocritical a church would be if we openly talked about some of our struggles and the sins we seem to fall for most often, instead of hiding behind the veneer of perfection.

    However, what we need to realize is that relief from the guilt and shame of sin does not come from hiding it, ignoring its existence, or pretending it isn't there. The relief comes from a Person, and an action He has done in each of our lives to redeem us from not only sin, but the power of it too. And while we still will struggle with the sin, it is no longer our master.

    So, what's the application from this somewhat lengthy, maybe complicated post? Quite simple really! Stop trying to pretend we're perfect! Let's be honest around each other, and more open about the temptations we struggle with and fall for. Let down the mask, and allow the Body of Christ to see you for who you are, a saint, clothed in the grace and righteousness of Christ, who still struggles! As we all do!

    We sometimes get locked into a mentality that we are the only ones that struggle with a particular fault or feeling. Well, I got news for ya! None of us are that special! We don't have our little private sins that no one else struggles with. No, we all struggle with sin. And as a body of Christ, we can be much more authentic in our worship and glorification of Christ when we are open and honest about our failures. When we are weak to ourselves and in ourselves, Christ is free to show Himself and His strength through us.

    So, don't hide behind the mask of perfection. Be honest about your/our struggles, and I believe the church will be much more genuine in our love for Christ and for each other.

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