For many years, everybody, including me, thought the Christian brother who had come to talk to me was a godly, gifted man with much responsibility in God’s kingdom. Now he was sitting before me weeping and confessing to a secret failure that had been going on for 12 years.
When I asked him how he managed to live such a double life, he answered, “I wore a mask. When I met you and others, I knew exactly what to say. I worked hard, performed well and made things happen. Nobody suspected anything. But I could not hold on to this mask any longer. It began to crumble, and my face began to be exposed. I could not sleep at night or think clearly anymore.”
King David wore such a mask for one year after his secret sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. He described in Psalm 32 how his physical body began to waste away, how his vitality was lost and how his sin was haunting him day and night. When he could not bear it any longer, he pulled off his mask, confessed his sin and genuinely repented. God forgave and restored him, and even today he is known as a man after His own heart.
Judas too was wearing a mask for three and a half years. He did it so skillfully that the rest of the disciples didn’t suspect anything. Only Jesus knew the truth. Judas never removed his mask, and it led him to betray the Son of God and eventually hang himself in despair.
What could make us, as believers and Christian workers, resort to wearing a mask?
It all has to do with our inner life. On the outside we have the needed head-knowledge, expertise and gifting to accomplish great things for God, but on the inside we have not grown up. Our spiritual maturity and Christlike character has not developed enough to be able to support the ministry or leadership position we were given. In order to compensate for the lack of our inner authentic life, we resort to wearing a mask and pretending to have a spirituality we don’t possess.
We keep wearing the mask because we fear others will reject us if they really knew who we are on the inside. We feel threatened that we may lose our important place in the church or ministry if people could see our real life and discover how spiritually unqualified we are for the position we hold.
What do we really want: an empty life or an authentic life?
If we wear a mask, we have to constantly scheme, plan and pretend to keep the deception going. But sooner or later the truth will catch up with us, and the mask will start to crumble, and our inner emptiness will be exposed.
If we want an authentic life, where our actions are not divorced from what’s on the inside, we must be ruthless with ourselves and, like David, pull off the mask we wear. We must humble ourselves before God, before those in authority over us and possibly before our family or others we have hurt, and confess our pretense and ask for forgiveness.
Yes, there will be consequences, such as possibly losing a position, facing up to failure and even public embarrassment. But in the end, it’s all worth it because our fear is gone, we are cleansed from sin and guilt, and we are free to be honest and walk in the light. The fruit we produce in the future will be lasting because it will be the result of an authentic inner life.
More than anything else, we need grace when we finally pull off our mask.
We need God’s grace to give us the necessary courage, openness and vulnerability to come clean about our life of pretense. The only way we can receive His grace is through humility.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
If we humble ourselves, choosing to walk in honesty and brokenness, we will experience God’s abundant grace to cleanse us, fill us with new strength and bring about a supernatural transformation in our inner life.
We very much need grace from our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Our double life not only hurts them personally, but they also have to pick up the pieces we left behind and face the dishonor we brought to the name of the Lord.
How can we extend such grace to one another? Only if we remember that none of us is without sin and failure—that is how. Therefore, let us show others the same compassion and grace God has shown to us.
When that Christian brother, whose story I told in the beginning, took his mask off and confessed his sin, I prayed with him and assured him of God’s forgiveness and of my own. Then I said to him, “You need to take a break. Your life is not lost. You will make it.”
My dear friend, only you can remove your own mask to become authentic. No one else can do it for you. When you take this step, God promises to be there to extend His grace to you and transform your inner life into the likeness of His dear Son. And in the light of eternity, that’s all that counts.
Dr. KP Yohannan, founder and director of the nonprofit organization Gospel for Asia, has written more than 200 books, including Revolution in World Missions, an international bestseller with more than 4 million copies in print. He and his wife, Gisela, have two grown children, Daniel and Sarah, who both serve the Lord with their families.
Gospel for Asia is a nonprofit organization serving the “least of these” in Asia since its beginning in 1979, often in places where no one else is serving. Gospel for Asia supports national workers who are serving as the hands and feet of Christ by ministering to people’s needs so they can understand the love of God for them for the first time. Gospel for Asia is engaged in dozens of projects, such as caring for poor children, slum dwellers and widows and orphans; providing clean water by funding wells; supporting medical missions; and meeting the needs of those in leprosy colonies. Through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope Program, tens of thousands of children are being rescued from the generational curses of poverty and hopelessness.