An Argument Against Masking

Tom Burke

January 2023
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Of all the writings contained within the Old and New Testaments, Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the most necessary for the individual Christian to read and internalize.1 In it, each of us can learn all of the essential truths regarding what Christ has accomplished and what those accomplishments gained for the believer.

However, we must recognize that the truths of Romans were revealed not simply for the purpose of information, but for that of transformation. Beginning with chapter twelve, we are given great insight as to how these truths can and should affect every area of our lives. For example, consider these verses:

Romans 12:9–18 (New American Standard Bible) Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 

In reading these verses for the first time, the unsaved reader might conclude, “Yes, that is a very noble and proper way for people to live.” Granted. But try to actually live by this standard and that conclusion can quickly change to, “This is noble, but it is also impossible.” And, apart from some supernatural help, that conclusion would be correct.

This is why it is so essential to note that this entire section opens by teaching us how, in Christ, we can live in a new way.

Romans 12:1,2 (New American Standard Bible) I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect

These verses speak of transformation — a complete change — which is brought about via the renewing of one’s mind. The mind is renewed by thinking and retaining the “thoughts” revealed in the previous chapters of Romans, truths regarding a greater reality that is now ours in Christ. As we do so, the transformation which occurs is not only a change in philosophy, but the gateway to a new and previously impossible way of living.2

For the purposes of this article, I would like to focus on just one short exhortation in Romans 12.

Romans 12:9a  (New American Standard Bible)Let love be without hypocrisy.

The words  “without hypocrisy” are translated from one Greek word, anupokritos, a combination of hupokritos (hypocrisy) and the prefix a, indicating negation or opposition. It finds its origins in Greek theater. In other words, a hypocrite is an actor. Actors put great effort into portraying characters that may differ greatly from their true selves. The term gains even greater significance when we realize that in Greek theater the emotions of that character were portrayed by a mask.

Hypocrisy is a quality that is frequently reproved throughout the Old Testament, 3 perhaps because it is a quality so commonly found in human behavior. It is also the one characteristic of the scribes, Pharisees, and other religious leaders, that the Lord Jesus Christ most frequently condemns. Its nature is perhaps best summed up in his words.

Matthew 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.4

We see that the essence of hypocrisy lies in exhibiting an outward attribute that can — and usually does — differ radically from my true heart, motives, and desires. Some of the ways in which the religious leaders of his day showed themselves to be hypocrites are catalogued by Jesus in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:2Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Matthew 6:5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Matthew 6:16Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Clearly, in this case, the motive behind the hypocrisy was to be seen as holy, devout, and committed to the things of God. But please be aware: hypocrisy can spring from a variety of motives, including (but certainly not limited to):

the desire to be loved

the desire to fit in

the desire to be thought of as beautiful, educated, or experienced

And on, and on. But in all cases, if my desire causes me to project a quality that I don’t truly have within me, this is hypocrisy. This would certainly apply to loving words or loving actions that do not spring from a loving heart.

Romans 12:9a  (New American Standard Bible)Let love be without hypocrisy.

Isn’t it telling that we are warned against the temptation to look loving! What quality is more important in the Christian church? 

2 Corinthians 6:4–6But in all things approving [or establishing] ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;

By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned (anupokritos),

It is certainly possible for a Christian, even a Christian minister, to mimic the outward attributes of love.  But Paul, speaking of himself, Silas, and Timothy, explains that their love was genuine, and not just a mask of love. This is one of the qualities that marked them out as true ministers of God.

1 Peter 1:22 (New American Standard Bible)Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere [anupokritos] love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

Once again we see that this genuine, fervent love will never be produced by fleshly effort. It comes only from obedience to the truth.5

There are other qualities regarding which the Scriptures specifically warn against the temptation to hypocrisy. One of these is wisdom.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy [anupokritos].

Many in the world and, sadly, even in the church, work hard to project an aura of wisdom.  But such wisdom will always lack good and lasting fruit. The only true wisdom is from above — from God, via His Word and His spirit.

The third quality singled out in God’s Word is faith. “Mask” faith may impress some, for a while, but it will ultimately result in frustration, disappointment, and failure.

1 Timothy 1:3–5 (American Standard Version)As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine,

Neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, the which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now.

But the end [or result] of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned [anupokritos].6

As an overseer in Ephesus, Timothy was instructed to command the other leaders and teachers to teach nothing but sound doctrine. Why? Because only sound doctrine will result in genuine transformation.  Anything less will, at best, only satisfy the intellect. And intellect alone will never produce true faith. 

Love, wisdom, and faith are vital to a blessed and fruitful Christian life. Why settle for a mask, that only (at best) impresses people, when the genuine is so freely available?

The unmasked Christian is an inspiration to the church and a glory to God. That Christian can also be a shock to those around them in the world, those who are so accustomed to masks that they try to pry beneath yours, only to discover that you are not wearing one!

Perhaps you have come to the realization that you have spent more energy on constructing a mask than you’ve spent on growing in Christ. If so, let me assure you, you are not the first to have this humbling experience.  But no matter how long you have been a Christian, it is far better to simply admit, “I’m not sure how to love, I have no true wisdom, and my faith is lacking”, and to start fresh from that point than to remain behind a mask, unfulfilled.

[1]   For the church, the same can be said of the epistle to the Ephesians.

[2]  Most readers will recognize that much, much more could be written about Romans 12:1,2 and about the fullness of the transformation that is available. For those who might not share this understanding, I would refer you to the recorded teachings on this website, many of which discuss this topic in greater depth. 

[3]  See, for example, Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 42:20,21; Ezekiel 33:31

[4]  Jesus speaks of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees a total of eight times in this chapter.

[5]  Obeying the truth, Scripturally, means more than simply following a set of rules. True obedience requires accepting the testimony of God’s Word as true, and living accordingly. As seen in Romans 12:2, this is when genuine transformation occurs.

[6]  See also 2 Timothy 1:3–5.

Scriptures in this article are from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible unless indicated otherwise.