Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wearing a Mask

Everyone knows that in order for a murder mystery (be it televised or written) to be any good, the killer has to be the person you least suspect.  I hate it when I'm watching a show or reading a book and the killer or predator turns out to be the person I suspected since Chapter 1.  Through the entire story, I just keep hoping I'm wrong and that the twist is still coming, and when it never comes, I'm left disappointed.

A good writer makes their antagonist seem impossible of a crime, they paint them as loving, kind, helpful, and endearing.  Usually it ends up being the next door neighbor who brought over cookies every Friday or the VP of a non-profit who put his or her all into the company.  We as the reader see their outside actions, their works...but what we don't get a glimpse of until the end is their heart.  To us, they were wearing a mask the whole time, making us believe they were something they weren't.

How many Christians do you know that are like that?  How many people on Sundays are wearing a mask, pretending to be someone else?  Are you one of them?

Psalm 24:3-4 
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.

The question, simplified, is this: Who may dwell with the Lord?  And the answer is pretty straightforward, however, I would like to expound.  What exactly does it mean to have clean hands and a pure heart?  To not lift our souls to falsehood or swear deceitfully?

I'm going to work my way backwards on this one and start with the last bit: And has not sworn deceitfully.  Basically, the person who can dwell with the Lord is someone who keeps his or her promises, who doesn't say one thing and do another, someone who is honest.  God commands us to let our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no' be 'no' (Matthew 5:37).  He will not accept anything less - we are to be people of our word.

The preceding section says: Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood.  This one is a little bit more tricky.  You see, the Hebrew word for 'falsehood' or shav' is also the same word for 'emptiness' or 'vanity' (Strong's H7723).  Every commentary I used referred to it as 'vanity' instead of 'falsehood' - most likely because they were using the King James Version which translates shav' as 'vanity.'  But it does seem to make sense; one who does not lift up his soul to vanity is one "who [does] not value or desire the vain things of this life, such as honours, riches, pleasures; but makes God his portion" (Wesley).  Our vanity often gets in the way of our relationship with Christ.  We get too caught up in having more, whether it be more money, more stuff, or a greater title.  Americans, and many others, can all to easily lose sight of what is truly important and become the vain beings of the society surrounding us.

Backing up just a little bit more, we see we are to have a pure heart.  God wants our hearts to be in the right place.  He is the only person who knows our hearts inside and out (sometimes better than we do I think).  Therefore He knows our inner most thoughts, our inner most motives, and He wants it to all be pure!

And now we come to the very first thing on the list: clean hands, meaning innocence (Strong's H5355).  You see, I think we read verses like this and we get stuck on the 'clean hands' part, we make it too much about what we do.  So when we're getting ready for church on Sunday morning, we put our sin in the night stand, take out our mask of perfection and put it on with our 'clean hands' so that everyone can see how perfect we are.  We talk the talk and walk the walk.  We sign up to volunteer at the food bank, say a prayer from the stage, greet everyone with a smile and a hug, go to the altar after the sermon...because we want our mask to look normal, we want our "perfection" to be the only thing people see, so we must make sure to play the part and play it well!  

Unfortunately, as noted above, God sees through that mask.  When He looks at you, He doesn't see perfection (and neither do most of the people in the congregation...the only one you are fooling is yourself).  But the great news?  Thankfully, for all of us, "God is not expecting totally unblemished perfection.  His son alone filled that requirement.  He is looking for hearts in constant pursuit of Him and His righteousness (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).  You see, "the outward will only be right if the inward disposition is pure" (Expositor's).  He may not want perfection but He wants us to be authentic.

In Kyle Idelman's book, Not a Fan, he talks about the difference between those who have been around church and God for a good part of their lives and those who are new to Christ and the church.  Those that have been around know what to say and what to leave out and just how to act.  But those who are new to the church "tell about eating disorders, gambling problems, and drug addictions.  They just don't know any better.  And I hope nobody tells them that they're supposed to act like they've got it all together.  You don't often get to see people without a mask.  And it is such a beautiful thing" (74, emphasis added).

Our masks are hideous to the face of God, and let's be honest, they don't do much in the human world either (if you think yours does, then you haven't heard what everyone is saying behind your back...).  If you take off your mask, if you become authentic, and less perfect, if you wear your heart on your sleeve, you become so much more becoming, so much more approachable.  Church is supposed to be a place where we can come as we are and be accepted, a place to grow with others who don't know what perfection is either, a place to be loved.  We cannot truly be loved if we don't take off our masks.  And we cannot truly love if we force everyone that enters the front door to don a mask.

I challenge you today to take off your mask, wear your heart on your sleeve.  You will be amazed at how your relationships change.  First and foremost, your relationship with God will thrive once you are being real.  And as a result, so will a lot of your other relationships.  Learn to love the right way, the real way.

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