By Shayne Mason Vincent
Over the years, I have become more compassionate toward pretentious people. I came to see that the bigger the mask, the darker the secrets of the night. Human beings are right to be skeptical. We live in a world overflowing with violated trust, judgements, and the kid who stole my entire matchbox-car-collection when I was eleven. Trust, in a turbulent world, seems so unreasonable. It’s much easier to simply maintain the mask.
Larry Crabb, in his book, Real Church, Does it Exist? Can I Find It?, said this about why we avoid authenticity: “At all costs, I feel compelled to protect myself from ridicule, rejection, or revulsion.”
You see, the reason most of us choose facade over authenticity is simply because it’s lonely. Authenticity isn’t wanted in polite society. Conformity is king. And for those few seekers of truth who dare cross the boundary of propriety, the reward is typically rejection. It’s a price common- sense is loath to pay. It’s far easier to simply dance in the masquerade ball.
But God loves authenticity. We can’t just write people off because they’re exasperating; we’re even meant to love them. And just here is where popular Christianity seems to nearly always get it wrong. Sin isn’t just fornication and drunkenness, those are secondary sins, coping mechanisms. Sin’s real impact is the lifeless, soul crushing drudgery of earning love through conformity. The illusions of value based in success.
So, if our spirit longs for more than dry bones, then we will have to confront ourselves with a very serious question: “Are we willing to accept the consequences of being true to ourselves? Are we really willing to pay the price of what could possibly be the loss of friends, church approval, career, or rejection from loved ones? Are we truly willing to plunge the blade right through our reputation in order to be truly alive?”
Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NLT) says, “Then He said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, lis- ten to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
If we really do prize truth above all other things, then we will need to trust that Jesus will empower us when He ignites our bones. He knows on a deep personal level what it’s like to be rejected. When He loved those society hated, His reputation paid the price.
When He exposed fake religion, they murdered Him for it. Yet, in being true to His own calling, He brought a whole world of dead bones back to life! And His authenticity has stood as the very emblem of courage for the past two millennia. So, we have no reason to be afraid of standing out in the crowd, because Jesus will be right there with us in the furnace: Daniel 3:25 (NLT) says, “‘Look!’ he shouted. ‘I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire, unharmed, and the fourth looks like a God.’”
In abandoning the mask, in refusing to bow the knee before the golden image of approval, the rewards we will find will be worth far more than the losses. What we lose are fake friendships, and formal platitudes. And what we gain are real love, authentic fellowship, and deep spiritual growth. Fear is replaced with peace. Dry bones come back to life. Broken trust is healed. And we are no longer alone. And in this place of Spirit-filled honesty, it is then that God enfolds His wounded children under the shadow of His wing. Authenticity has restored the circle of unending love through grace.
–Shayne Mason Vincent is lead pastor of the Casper Wyoming District. Email him at: [email protected]