I can still recall the slight feeling of panic knotting up in my stomach. After a few years of experience, I knew what to expect: soon tractors with wheels my size (some of you might argue that this wasn’t very big) pulling floats of all kinds would drive up our street. All the while the music bouncing off the walls of houses in our street would give the very name of our street Boomstraat (see picture) another interpretation. Yet, the worst part in the event was the sight of ugly masks or humungous plastic faces on the floats.
There was no ignoring Carnival in Belgium.
My thoughts flew back to this scenario as I was pondering hypocrisy. Jesus chided the Pharisees for this sin, saying they were like “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). Now, none of us ever put on a show for others, right?
The truth is that we have all used masks before each other and God. Often, it is in an attempt to measure up to others’ expectations, or in an attempt to impress those we are praying for, or still in an attempt to impress God. All the while, we acknowledge that prayer is honest interaction of our true selves with God.
This sounds unnerving. How can we be real and confident before One so powerful and holy? It is only possible when we begin to understand God’s love for us expressed in Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind.
Confidence before God is not an illusion, neither is it an expression of arrogance. It is a reality that is in our reach – through Jesus’ work of atonement. We cannot come before Him in our own best attempt at righteousness. As Isaiah 64:6 says: “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. We need God to clothe us with Himself, in the same way as He clothed Adam and Eve after they had sinned.
And when God has clothed us in Jesus’ righteousness, we can approach Him in confidence, knowing that we are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We no longer need to resort to hiding ourselves behind a mask. In Him we are already acceptable to God!
Picture above: Boomstraat where we used to live in Belgium