In his book Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels writes this line as he gives his description of the early Church found in Acts 2:42-47:
They took off their masks and shared their lives with one another.
I read that line and I was struck as I thought of all the masks I see in church. We are supposed to come together and rejoice in the fact that we don’t need masks in church. Sadly, this is not the case. We see masks all around us.
As I have talked to people, I realize that there are many reasons that we put on masks. Sometimes we want to hide what’s underneath. Some believe they are not worthy or beautiful enough to show their true face. There are masks designed to hide wounds and there are others that conceal deep insecurity.
Others put on masks not because they feel ashamed but because they believe that the mask is what others want to see. Some wear the happy-face mask because they think no one wants to see the lonely face. Others want to show that they are always doing it right instead of acknowledging that they are in a struggle with God.
Even worse is when the mask has been forced on by others. Some people don’t want the mask of tragedy and pain. They try to take the mask off but they have not found anyone who can help them.
Then there are those like Moses. Remember when he came down from the mountain after being with God. The Israelites asked him to put on a mask (veil) so that they would not have to look at the reflection of God on his face. I wish I could say it only happened back then. I still see masks being put on because the church family feels a little uncomfortable with someone who is really striving after God. The Israelites wanted Moses to be “normal,” and unfortunately, we can have that same tendency.
Yet what is most tragic of all is when our church cultures encourage mask-wearing rather than discouraging it. We don’t want to be around the people who are recovering from something. They can meet downstairs. We want everyone to have it together.
I wish the early Church were the norm rather than the exception, don’t you? I long for the church to be known as the place of healing, where the masks can be taken off.
Paul knew the way this could happen. In 2 Corinthians 3 he describes the time when Moses was asked to put on the veil. Thankfully, he says that in Christ we can get rid of the mask. In verse 18 he writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
How did the early Church live together unmasked? Paul says it’s when the church beholds Jesus. And when the church looks together at our Lord, the Spirit does an unmasking and transformation so that the church looks like Jesus.
I love the fact that Paul says “we” instead of “I.” For it is only in real, authentic community that this can happen. It is only when we lovingly point out to one another that we want to see their real face and, at the same time, reveal our “unmasked” face as well. When we love others for who they are and encourage them to see that God loves them, then people will have the courage to look to Jesus unmasked. And that is where the healing and transformation can begin.
Wouldn’t you love to see what others really look like? Don’t you want others to see the real you? God loves the real unmasked us and He wants to do a transformation.
Photo by Joel Cooper.