An historical use of face masks and disguises has been to hide humans from evil spirits by appearing to look like evil spirits. The challenge for the Christian is to fear no evil and trade the mask for the face of Christ.
Did you know that pirates didn’t just exist a long time ago, but that they even exist today? And oftentimes, those pirates don’t look any different from you and me. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, some of YOU could be pirates!!!
I need a moment to come up with some sort of solution!
Aaargh!! Just in case any o’ ye scurvy lot be pirates, I be the meanest o’ them all. I’d jest as soon give ya da black spot as look at ya!!! Aaaargh!! No victim to see here, me hardies! Just another pirate here, so don’t ye be messin’ wit me. Aaaargh!!!
Okay, so THAT was just a short skit to demonstrate why some people wear masks and have worn masks and disguises throughout history. I expressed a fear that evil pirates might be in this room; so, in fear I put on a pirate mask so as to protect myself from being one of their victims.
An explanation for why people in times past have put on disguises and masks can be found from a Celtic holiday having been observed all the way back to when Christ walked the earth.
Let’s take a moment to review some information I collected from a website (paganspath.com).
During the celebration of S-a-m-h-a-i-n (pronounced Sow-en), the Celts wore costumes and danced around bonfires. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle or Wheel of Life. These costumes were adorned for three primary reasons.
The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world.
Another representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching.
Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or 'haunt' the living that may have done them wrong.
So the third reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery.
This at least 2000-year-old concept of wearing a mask or disguise, then, was a belief that one could put on a disguise that would cause evil spirits to mistake a person for just another evil spirit. It wasn’t that the wearer had to act evil. They just had to look evil. This way they believed they were protecting themselves from becoming a victim of evil spirits by trickery or deception.
My little skit demonstration was intended to bring to life this concept of deceiving evil with the appearance of evil. Of course, we all have to admit I also did act as if I were bad, too.
Put another way, we could say I submitted you to bad acting – but for a good cause, I hope.
Have you ever caught yourself disguising who you are in Christ so as to avoid being persecuted?
When I was young and growing up in the church I developed a fear of persecution, especially by teachers and peers. And in many ways, I flew under the radar concerning my faith so as to avoid disfavor. Nevertheless, I still suffered disfavor at times, because I was not going to deny my faith.
The Bible gives us valuable instruction on how to respond to trials that must come because of our faith.
1 Pet 3: 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
I dare not imagine (because I don’t wish to be discouraged) how many times I’ve hidden behind a mask for fear of suffering at the hands of evil.
And, before I go further, don’t mistake today’s message as being about returning evil for evil…
Titus 3: 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
If we beat somebody else over the head with our life view; if we devote ourselves to showing them how wrong they are; insulting them; being condescending; laughing at their ignorant misfortune, we’ve just become like them. We aren’t wearing a mask, and nor are we reflecting the face of Christ.
Mat 7: 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
The idea of the mask comes from, at least for one reason, fear of being discovered by evil. So, the reasoned solution has been to wear the mask and appear to be no different than the evil we fear.
So, we must face our fears if inclined to hide behind a mask, which will allow us to take advantage of the following comforting words…
1 Joh 4: 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
To conclude, throughout history masks and disguises have been used to deceive evil by appearing to be evil. As Christians we are called to have no fear of evil, and instead to show evil the face and person of Christ in both appearance and action. With God’s Spirit in us we are given EVERY capacity to do just that and with the very same love God has for His creation. Let’s make sure others see the face of Christ when they see us; NOT a mask.