Ernest J. Gaines makes a statement in his cultural novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. When one of the characters comes home from getting some education—the one who represents the leadership of his people—with the intention of his leading the people as a minister of the gospel, he floors them with the knowledge that he no longer believes in the church. His statement, “Leave the lies to the preachers.”

            As a preacher, I’m not sure that I care for the designation of “liar.” I am also a bit squeamish about being qualified as a hypocrite. But I’m fairly sure that both of these categories have a great deal to do with who I am. Certainly I don’t encourage hypocrisy, nor do I go out of my way to lie in any and all situations. However, I do find myself donning my mask and putting on a suit of diplomacy (the tailor-made version of lying).

            Kevin Leman gives me a great excuse for this in his research-based The Birth Order Book. Since I am the third of four children and the second son, I qualify as a middle child (in spades). Here is the list of typical characteristics of a middle child: “mediator, compromising, diplomatic, avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, many friends, a maverick, secretive, unspoiled.” This is a pretty good description of me. In short, I want two things (mainly): people to like me and peaceful co-existence. I want everyone to be happy. Consequently, this leads to a default of being “on” all the time.

            I relate a great deal with Craig Groeschel who confesses in his introduction to Confessions of a Pastor that he plays his part with relative ease. It is so easy to say and hear what people want to fulfill a desire for acceptance that it becomes a game that some of us play. If you’re really good at it you can never turn it off. We play the part for our church—especially those of us who see our livelihood resting in the hands of the people. Tell them what they want to hear without telling them anything really. It’s a politician’s dream to be able to master this skill. We play the part for our families. How many of us really let our guard down even for our spouse?

            I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world. She’s smart, witty, beautiful, and giving. Still sometimes I wonder, “If she really knew all of me, if I came clean about who I am at my core being, would she still want me?” I asked her once why she felt I was good enough to choose. She just smiled and said, “I love you.” I don’t try to hide from her, but at the same time, I don’t know that I’ve ever fully disclosed myself to her. I have a feeling as I open up more to her all the time, she would just love me more.

            In a way, this acceptance she shows toward me is a sampling of what Jesus does. The big difference is that, even though I try to put my game face on for Jesus, He knows. Sometimes my blushing bride knows, too. She doesn’t say anything, she just knows, and she loves me anyway. See? Jesus knows, and He loves me anyway. This is why perhaps Groeschel’s book is so important. It reminds us—Christ followers—that Christ knows us so we don’t have to be ever “on”. Instead, we ought to be genuine because Christ knows. I am working on this hypocrisy thing (from the ancient Greek stage—the hypocrite was the mask worn by the actor to depict the role he was playing). Take off the mask. . . Your friends and family don’t want it, you won’t miss it, and Jesus sees right through it.

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