What’s Behind the Mask?

What’s Behind the Mask?

by Dale Reeves
Story Pastor

Last Sunday morning as I welcomed people into our church building (some for the first time in four months), I wore a mask over my face—and, as a bonus, it was an American flag, to honor our country’s Independence Day. Several people entering our church building last weekend remarked about my patriotic mask, and a few questioned if masks “are required” in church these days. Our answer to that question at Christ’s Church is that they are not “required” but if they will make you feel more comfortable, then we encourage you to wear them. I took note of a few of our nurses at church who were wearing them, and asked one of them, “Can you give me your one-minute assessment of whether or not to wear a mask?” Her response: “Well, I can’t tell you in one minute, but I can tell you that it makes a lot of people more comfortable about going out in public.”

My purpose today is not to solve the “to mask or not to mask” question. You can find an abundance of research to support whatever view you have on the subject. Some people will not go to a place of business, go shopping, or go to the church without a “mask is mandatory” requirement. Others purposely stay away from anywhere that is making this a hard-and-fast order. In certain “hot spots” in our country, and certain counties in our state, masks are required for you to go out in a public place. I’m sure we have all chuckled as we have seen folks wearing masks incorrectly, not covering their noses, wearing them around their neck, off one ear, or wearing them full-on while driving solo in traffic in the comfort of their own car.

There is no shortage of opinions on the kind of masks we should or should not be wearing, and whether or not it is good to limit the oxygen intake in our bodies for a prolonged period of time. Later this summer I expect that we’ll see a few tan lines on people’s faces that resemble raccoons caused by something other than sunglasses.

Holy Mask, Batman!
I grew up watching the old-school Batman series that ran on TV from 1966–1968, starring Adam West as the caped crusader, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, and Cesar Romero as the Joker. I remember an episode or two in which Batman and Robin were caught by one of their archvillains, getting ready to meet their demise, and just before the episode for the evening concluded, we heard the words:

Will Gotham City finally discover the true identity of the Caped Crusader?
Will Batman be unmasked for all to see?
Will the Boy Wonder never say again, “Holy nick of time, Batman!”?
Tune in next week to find out.
Same Bat Time.
Same Bat Channel.

Batman wore a mask to keep his identity a secret from the criminals from whom he was protecting his beloved city. To have his cover blown would have meant the end of his crime-fighting days (and the end of the series). Sometimes masks are worn to protect people from being exposed to something that might upset them. For instance, the Phantom of the Opera wore a mask and lurked beneath the Paris Opera House to hide the horror of his deformed face from others.

Masking Emotion
As schoolteachers contemplate what the reopening of schools will look like this fall, several elementary teachers have remarked that if they are required to wear masks as they teach their students, it will be difficult to communicate with them all that they’d like to convey. We know that communication isn’t just about what we say, but how we say it, and what our body language looks like. As one person said, “If you’re happy and you know it, notify your face.”

I’ve noticed the past few months as I pass people in the grocery store or Half Price books, I can only see eyes, I can’t see whether or not a person is smiling, chuckling to themselves, angry, amused, or frustrated. Sometimes we can “see” smiles or steam coming from someone’s eyes, and at other times, we can’t. I miss seeing that on the faces of people.

When I ask the question, “What is behind the mask?” I don’t just mean our facial expressions, but our thoughts as well. And no one, except God, can read our thoughts correctly all the time. Can I ask you: What’s behind your mask these days—emotionally, and spiritually? What would you like to communicate that you are having a difficult time saying to others, perhaps saying to yourself, and most importantly, saying to God? To remove one’s mask is to reveal one’s vulnerability, to get honest and authentic.

Removing the Mask
Webster’s dictionary defines the word “masquerade” as a “display of emotion or behavior that is insincere or intended to deceive; an impersonation or act.”

In the Bible we read that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15, NIV). It’s as if our archvillain, Satan, wants to come to the party God invited us to (real and abundant life in Jesus), but not come as he really is because we would see his true ugliness for what it is. Instead, like the Phantom of the Opera, sometimes he sings with an attractive voice but appears as if he’s attending a masquerade ball in which he can playact, and speak words to our hearts and minds that are contrary to God’s truth. Several weeks ago, retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Bob Russell, said this in one of his blogs:

“We share articles and repost rants that reinforce what we believe, yet no one is persuaded to change their thinking. I’ve read accusations that are so exaggerated they defy reason. ‘You’re a racist!’ ‘You’re a Marxist!’ ‘You’re insensitive!’ ‘You’re destroying the country!’ And that’s between friends or fellow Christians!”

Did you catch that? Ugly and horrific comments between friends and fellow believers in Jesus. I believe that is the work of Satan, who masquerades as an “angel of light.” One thing is for certain. Until Jesus comes back to take his people back to Heaven with him for all eternity, the impostor who parades around as an angel of light will continue to seek to deceive, destroy, and mask his evil intentions among us—as individuals, among our families, and in the church.

Can I challenge you with something today? I dare you to get alone with God, take off your mask, and tell him what’s really on your heart and in your mind today. He already knows it before you tell him, but it will do you a tremendous amount of good to vent to him because he loves you and wants you to come to him in honesty and vulnerability. He will listen to you, whisper to you his great love for you, and remind you that he is still in control of his universe, no matter what the “angel of light” is trying to do as he masquerades about.

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