Genesis or the book of beginnings launches the story of a man and woman who had everything and lost it with a lie. That lie from the enemy sent Adam and Eve into hiding. When God came looking for them, they were afraid and ashamed at their nakedness.
“Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. (Genesis 3: 9-11)
Adam and Eve lived in the garden of their dreams with the glory of God as their covering with no shame. “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25)
Yet even in this perfect environment, Adam and Eve still fell for the lie that God was hiding something from them. Their disobedience released shame into mankind and we have lived with the effects by growing accustomed to wearing a mask and having a hidden agenda. Steve Brown is a long-time pastor, seminary professor, radio show host and author of Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart. Brown shares his own journey of how God removed the mask of religious success with humorous anecdotes of his own experiences such as failing at speaking at a conference of leaders who he wanted to impress.
“I will never remove my mask or set aside my agendas as long as I think Christianity is about fixing me and others, building empires, changing the world, making my life count, correcting doctrinal truth, promoting programs, raising money and being nice. It’s not. It’s about the forgiveness of sins.” (Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart p. 70)
Brown’s confession of being a pastor that smokes or having to clean up after suicides are bittersweet reminders of how Christians make smoking cigarettes the unpardonable sin or hiding the fact that Christians commit suicide. I’ve laughed and cried through his stories and questions that challenge me to take off my mask. I realized as I read the book that God sent a child with special needs into my life to remove my mask of professional or so-called religious success. With the removal of my masks, I have a lot more love and mercy towards people who can’t give anything to me. Removing my masks set me free and yet I’ve been more cognizant of the religious masks that Christians wear to hide their shame.
Brown explains how the kindness of God removes masks by allowing us to suffer, be embarrassed and being wrong in a big public way. I’ve never heard of Christians praying for God to let them suffer, be embarrassed or wrong in a public way. Yet Brown points out the leaders in the Bible that we admire experienced suffering, being embarrassed and publicly wrong. A prime example is David who was hunted for years by King Saul, called out by a prophet for his illicit relationship with Bathsheba and humiliated by the death of a child. There was no public relations machine that existed then for David to spin his failures.
The removal of these masks is a freedom to love and follow God without any hidden agendas. Brown also gives advice on how to safely remove your mask in a church prone to gossip or being human. I don’t want to give away his juicy material because I want you to read his book. You’ll be shocked, moved to tears and if you don’t experience any of that, you’ll have a burden to pray for pastors. Brown rips the mask off religion by exposing the hurt and pain that pastors endure to take care of their congregations with love and mercy.
You can use the book in a bible study setting which I’m thinking about doing but I know it will be uncomfortable. Living with someone elses mask is easier than seeing who they really are. The first mask Adam and Eve attempted to create to hide from God has been worn by mankind since the Fall. Yet God cries out, “Where are you?” while knowing the failures we want to hide. He still longs for us to walk with Him naked and unashamed. If only we could give love, grace and mercy to other people so they could drop their mask with us and God.