This week is the first in a two part series. I think we sometimes put masks on people, others and ourselves, because it makes life less complicated. More black and white. Today, let’s think about taking off the masks we put on other people.
It’s easier to deal with people if we think about them like characters in a superhero movie. In old movies, the superheroes were always completely good, and the villains were always totally bad. At least that’s how I remember it.
But people aren’t like that. Take NCIS. It’s one of my favorite shows, partly because the characters are well rounded, realistic, and believable. My favorite character is Ziva. (SPOILER ALERT – I refuse to believe that she’s dead. Not the Mossad ninja.) In the beginning of the show, I couldn’t decide whose side she was on. Even in later episodes, she would stick her neck out for people from her past, and it caused her to make some mistakes, but she was still a “good guy.”
Now what about Jonah? When you get right down to it, cute as the story is and as much as kids love it, he’s not your typical hero. He didn’t want to go preach to people when God told him to. Strike one for evil! But those people were wicked. Can you blame him for being reluctant? He finally went though. It was a long, hard journey involving a very large sea creature, but he went. Ok, maybe he’s alright after all. But then, after he preached to them and they repented, he was so happy. Oh wait, no he wasn’t. Actually, he was quite upset. Bad guy again. So which is it?
That’s how real life is. That’s how it was with the prodigal son. Remember the story? The ungrateful guy basically demanded what he would get after his dad died. Ouch. Then he ran off and squandered it. Must have been some party. Solidly bad guy, right? Wait for it. He realized what he had done and wanted to go back home. He worked up a first rate apology to give his father. So he’s coming around.
Do you remember what the father did? “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) The son hadn’t even apologized, but the father was ready to forgive him. See, he didn’t keep the “bad mask” on his son, even though he had been deeply hurt. He saw him for who he was – a flawed human who makes mistakes.
Now, what about the brother? He was angry and wouldn’t even go see him. He was upset because for all the years he had been obedient his father hadn’t celebrated him. “But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” (Luke 15:30) Can’t you just see his eyes flashing and his jaw clenching? The brother kept the mask on.
Let’s be careful to not put masks on people. Sure, it’s easy to have people who disappoint you in the written off category and disregard anything decent they might do. It’s simpler to think of those you love as incapable of doing anything wrong. But it’s not accurate.
God doesn’t see us with masks. He sees us as humans in a difficult world who mess up. But he sees Christians through the blood of Christ. Let’s try to see people the way God sees us.