Do you remember how Jesus said, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”? There is a way in which my two year old son models this. He is too blissfully ignorant to know that he is supposed to wear a mask. If he is ticked off he lets me know it. If he is sad he lets me know it. He is confident enough in my love for him that he doesn’t have to pretend.
There is also a way in which new believers model this—at least for awhile. Most new believers are so amazed that God loves and accepts them—think Romans 5:8—that they are humble and confident enough in the Father’s love that they don’t pretend to be more than they are.
Oh, but how time changes this.
You can see this in many small groups or Sunday school classes. A new believer “ignorantly” (though rightly) confesses sin in a very raw way. He has yet to learn all of the masking words we Christians use. This ignorant sap doesn’t yet know how to clean up his sin and make it pretty and acceptable for his Christian community. So, he just comes right out and says it—“I get so pissed off with my boss that I start fantasizing about his destruction”. This new believer boldly says what he is thinking, feeling, and doing.
Shocked, confused, and enamored with such a confession the group gives the obligatory correction. Now comes the advice parade. Most people around the room give advice for dealing with anger. Much of the advice is a veiled rebuke. There is seldom a place for such gritty humility.
Fast forward five years and this new believer is fully acclimated into the mask-wearing community. He’s now a seasoned believer. He finds himself in a small group that has a few new believers in attendance. On one occasion a new believer shares his unmasked confession. Our now seasoned believer remembers back five years ago when he was encouraged to put on his mask of mock-holiness. Now rather than gritty humility he finds advice and obligatory correction spewing from his lips.
Mock-holiness is safer. Real holiness only comes from gritty humility. And gritty humility is messy. But which is the Jesus-way?