As the heat of summer intensifies (and if you’re anything like me), you’re probably ready for the whole wearing of masks to be over. They’re hot and sweaty and uncomfortable and they make conversations more difficult. But the kind of masks we TRULY need to remove aren’t made of cotton.
Brothers and sisters, the following are three kinds of masks that need to come off if we’re truly going to BE THE CHURCH:
1) The Mask of “Religion”
James 1:26-27 talks about people who “consider themselves religious” and yet practice worthless religion. They talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. The mask of religion allows us to “appear” good, pious, disciplined, and holy. We can “put on” the mask of church attendance, tithing, ministry, Bible reading, even teaching and leading, all the while being void of compassion on the inside. If you take a look at the blog post right before this one, you will find reference to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It was the “religious” leaders who utterly failed at the kind of “religion that God our Father accepts”. Pure religion is to care for those in distress. James gives the example of orphans and widows, but the meaning is any person who cannot reciprocate.
Even with the mask of religion firmly in place, ultimately it is our words that will give us away. The mask will work for a while, but the true condition of our hearts will soon be revealed (Numbers 32:23).
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
- Luke 6:45
…or what the heart is empty of!
2) The Mask of “Faith”
James 2:14-26 describes someone who “claims to have faith” and but has no lifestyle or evidence to back it up. Do you see the pattern yet? We are wearing a mask any time we CONSIDER ourselves righteous, or CLAIM to have faith… but there is little to no proof. We are wearing a mask any time we want to APPEAR spiritual to others. The mask is the façade hiding the void underneath. Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs”! (Matthew 23:27) But they were “religious”! Can religion or faith be true if it is only words or appearances? No. “If it is not accompanied by action, it is dead.”
“… a person is considered righteous by WHAT THEY DO…” - James 2:24
A prostitute can have true faith while a preacher can be spiritually dead (James 2:25-26). Think about that: a sexually promiscuous person can possess true faith and practice “pure” religion, while a church leader can be nothing more than an imposter behind the mask of religion and faith.
Again, the mask will only work for a while, but the true condition of the heart will ultimately be revealed.
3) The Mask of “Spirituality”
If you carefully read the book of James, you will notice a theme. In writing “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” he calls them out on the masks they are wearing. They were great at the guise of spirituality, but struggling with the practicality. Here are a few examples. While believing themselves to be good, religious people of faith, some of them were guilty of:
Failing to apply the Word of God (1:22-25)
Using their tongues for evil (1:26, 3:9-12, 4:11)
Showing favoritism and lacking mercy (2:1-13)
Possessing a faith without works (2:14-26)
Picking fights with “family members” (4:1-2)
Boasting about life plans and the future (4:13-16)
Hoarding wealth and living self-indulgently (5:1-6)
Oppressing the less fortunate (5:4-6)
What was James’ advice? He advised his “brothers and sisters” to remove the masks! “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). He wanted them to experience spiritual healing and to have real, true, authentic, living faith in God! In order to do that, they were going to need to be real with each other, to take off the masks, to be vulnerable, to be honest!! (Imagine if Judas Iscariot had done just that…)
We are just as bad at that as they were. We’re afraid to be truly known. That might lead to rejection, to disappointment, to gossip, to being viewed as a failure, possibly even to a loss of respect or ministry position.
James ends by saying, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. . . . My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:16b-20).
In other words, if you allow a brother or sister to truly know you, love you, pray for you, and help you remove your mask, you will discover that that kind of friendship is powerful, effective, and life giving! It can restore you to spiritual health and put you back on the path of life! The question is: would we rather appear to have life, or truly live?
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Blog by Kristi Walker of CrossWay International Baptist Church.
Published on 21. June 2020 from Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.