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Taking Off the Mask

July 3rd, 2012 by Sergio Gonzalez

Have you ever read a comic book? Chances are you may have seen a superhero movie but comic books seem to be a dying breed. I myself haven’t read one in years but as I was moving some boxes around the other day I came across my old comic book collection. I was instantly taken back to the days of my youthful love-affair with comic books. I can still remember the grainy feel of the paper in my hands, the smell of a freshly opened book, the anticipation I would get after finishing an exciting story – wondering what would happen in the next issue. My favorite comic book was “The Amazing Spiderman.” What I liked most about Spiderman was actually the man behind the mask: Peter Parker. Pete was just a regular, nerdy guy like me. He wasn’t from a far-off planet like Superman or a billionaire entrepreneur like Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). No, Pete was just a regular dude who only had his powers because of a freak accident. He worked hard as a freelance photographer in New York City, barely making enough to put himself through school and pay the rent. But whenever he put that mask on, he became Spiderman: the wise-cracking crime fighter who kept the city safe.

So why am I talking about comic books? In addition to revealing what a nerd I was as a kid, it’s to illustrate the powerful effect a mask can have. Spiderman’s mask portrayed a powerful persona: a crime-fighting hero of incredible powers. Underneath that frightening mask, however, was a good-hearted person. But the world of comic books is ultimately just a fantasy; it’s not the real world. As Jesus walked the Earth, he encountered mask-wearers that are much more common to this world. These people were the opposite of Peter Parker: they wore a mask of “purity” to conceal dark, defiled hearts.

“Hypocrite” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. Maybe you’ve called somebody one before. Maybe somebody’s called you one. Either way, it’s a word that packs a big bite. But in Jesus’ time, the Greek word “hypokritḗs” simply meant “a stage actor.” And one thing that actors in Greek theater typically wore were – you guessed it – a mask.  So whenever Jesus called someone a hypocrite – and it’s a word he used a lot in the Gospels – he was calling them out on the role they were playing. The person they were portraying to the world was not the person they were in their hearts. Jesus described them this way (quoting Isaiah),

These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.

Jesus hated “mask wearing” because he so loved the very thing that masks conceal: the heart, the person you really are.

It seems we all have masks we wear: a “better version of ourselves” that we present to strangers, our coworkers, our bosses, even sometimes our friends and family. But God isn’t interested in that. He cares about the person you really are in your heart, underneath all the layers of appearances, self-deceit, and half-truths. I hear people say all the time how they can’t approach God because they feel too dirty: they’ve sinned too much, they’ve strayed too far, it’s been too long. None of that matters to God. He wants to cleanse you, draw you close, make you new. We don’t need to put on an act for him. No matter what we’ve done, he’s at the door of our hearts waiting to come in and make a permanent residence. Just imagine that concept: being one with God…

Wow…

But that’s impossible if we keep covering our hearts with the mask of false appearances. It can be scary taking off that mask. Once the mask is off, the charade is over: you’ll have to face who you really are.

Give your heart to him instead. When you do, you’ll find that when you search your heart, you’ll see God.

You’ll never need another mask again.

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6 Responses to “Taking Off the Mask”

  1. On July 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm Makay responded with... #

    sometimes because the enviroment we are at, the points we want to prove to ourselves cause us to hide the true us to a pretending/acting us. We want to be loved by everyone until u understand that there is no greater love than the love of God. These i know from a personal experience.-Jessica

    • On July 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm Sergio Gonzalez responded with... #

      Jessica, I think I know what you’re talking about all too well. It’s really tough. But, as you said, once you experience God – who loves you so much exactly as you are – you look back and realize that pretending for the sake of others or even yourself is such a waste of time.

  2. On February 4, 2015 at 11:35 am Philip Simmons responded with... #

    I am recovering people pleaser and approval addict. I have been wearing a mask for years. I grew with insecurities from rejection of family members , peer pressure, and an alcoholic father. I have always overcompensated being nice and giving to others. I also would watch pornography and indulge in masturbation to nudge the pain of rejection. When I came to Christ I did not have the fullness of the gospel of grace taught to me. I was around judgmental self-righteous believers, so I became a legalistic. Shamefully I used the things of God to bring me glory and I idolized the praise of men. As a consequence of my sin and idolatry I have been drawn into toxic relationships where people took advantage of me because I was giving for validation of other people. My relatives even took advantage of me because of my need for approval. I knew that as Christians we are supposed to give and help others but I was doing everything for the wrong reasons and i was not being lead by the Holy Spirit but I gave from my flesh so I became burned out. God allowed people to call me back to back to take advantage of me to allow me to come to the end of myself. I was devastated because it got to a point where I began to realize that I did not have any friends. Mostly everybody in my life love me for what I could do for them or what I could give them instead of who I really was— a broken vessel and sinner in need of God’s love and grace. It was my fault because of I wearing the mask of being a martyr and savior to the world in order to be accepted by others. God has given me the strength to set boundaries for myself and He has closed the door to relationships that I did not need to be in. Not I am at the point of relying on God. I do not have any friends at this point. I am starting over as I remove my mask to see who I really am and acknowledge my weaknesses that I have covered up for so long. I have been unemployed for quite a while since I graduated from college but God has used that time for me to grow. I am now seeking my true purpose because everything my life was based on was for the approval of others. I even chose a major in the sociology to go in the field of counseling to help others so that I could feel good about myself and that other people could like me and that I would feel needed. I am reconsidering my decisions and seeking God.

    I really enjoyed Cross-Connection and it is inspiring me to find that authentic passion for God that does not come from legalism, approval addiction and people pleasing. I have a long way to go but I thank God that I am not where I used to be.

    • On February 4, 2015 at 2:24 pm Sergio Gonzalez responded with... #

      Philip, thanks for your candid and powerful testimony. I’m truly moved to hear of your journey and how God has guided you. Thank you for sharing.

  3. On February 4, 2016 at 9:30 am Toph responded with... #

    I can totally relate with wearing this mask. Can’t seem to get through this spiritual battle. Prayers appreciated.

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