The Man Behind the Mask

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Gangs, Gospel, Inspiration, Ron's Thoughts

The Man Behind the Mask

I talk to a lot of Gs on the streets that walk with the typical gangster swagger. They’ve got an attitude and if you look at their face, you see a set of emotions that say “I’m tough. Don’t mess with me.” But when you look into their eyes, you understand that the face you see is only a mask covering up a whole set of fears and emotions that a G is trying to hide from the outside world because they reveal weakness and vulnerability.  When the mask comes off, the vulnerabilities and fears become clear; how did I get here? Who am I? Why do I feel this dread?  Why was I born without having a chance? Why did my parents leave me in this situation? Am I going to repeat their mistakes with my kids?  Why am I so angry? Why made me shoot that guy? Are they coming after me? How am I going to survive out here? Why do other people have it better than me? How am I supposed to live I when I don’t have a future? Am I going to spend most of my life in jail? What’s that going to do to me? Am I going to go insane? Why does everyone hate me? Is God really watching me? Does he really care about me? If so, why is my life so bad?  What’s going to happen to me when I die? Am I going to hell?  Why am I so scared of that? Why do I have to hide behind this swagger? Why can’t I find someone to love me for who I am? These are all questions that inform the gangster persona.

So gangster, where do you go from here? How do you make a life? You can fool people for a while, but sooner or later the mask comes off for all to see.  You can only hide behind the façade of gangster life for so long before your true self is revealed. Sooner or later you’ll be forced to face reality. All your fears and inadequacies will be revealed. Maybe it will happen at night when you try to sleep and there’s no one there but you and God. That’s when all the dirt you did when you were down with the gang come back to haunt you. Maybe it’s in a confrontation when come apart and run and your fears are revealed in front of all the brothers.  Maybe it’s when you’re thrown into jail and you sit in your cell wondering how it all went wrong.  Maybe it’s when you die and you stand face-to-face with God. No masks gonna help you there! You can’t go on masquerading in front of Him. The mask comes off and what’s left for everyone to see all too real. Not only will your mask come off but you’ll be naked before the almighty with all your sins and evil deeds exposed before heaven and earth. No amount of swagger helps then. But, does it have to be that way? Is there a better way to remove the mask?

Go ahead and ask yourself:  when I look in the mirror, what do I see? Who is the man hiding behind the mask in your life?  What is it that you’re trying to hide behind that mask of ganglife swagger? What scars do you have that you don’t want anyone to see?  Whatever’s there, Jesus died to heal. Jesus can deal with all the scars and of the gang lifestyle, so why not let Jesus gently remove the mask and embrace your scars. Why not let Jesus heal those scars so you’ll never have to put on a mask again. Let the world see the real you. Let the people of God embrace you for who you are, and in turn, you’ll be able to embrace others who are also reeling from the effects of gang life. Authenticity is critical in the Christian life. Transparency is paramount.  In fact, Paul the Apostle was able to say In I Thessalonians 2 that “we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.” Paul never covered up who he really was for any sort of gain. He was real. Can you say the same? Why not be real too? Take off the mask of gang affiliation and let Jesus plug you into a set where you can experience real life and life in more abundance that you’ve ever imagined.  Let Jesus take care of your fears and give you joy.  Let Jesus love you for who you are with the authentic love of God. When that happens, something wonderful begins to take place. When we take off the mask of gang affiliation and begin to contemplate God for who he is, and not what we want him to be (I.e. false and contrived gang theologies and “isms”), then we find that we “who with uncovered faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). You want to change? You want to have a second chance? You want to know God? Take off the mask! The result of uncovering your face, of unmasking your appearance, is that we begin to change. We begin to be transformed into the image of God. That’s a where real change takes place and where real life begins. Sure there’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. So, get rid of your mask and let the world see the man behind the mask, the real man, the man standing with God. It’s not the guy with swagger, not the guy with juice, not the guy with a ride, and not the guy with a load. Let the world see that it’s a guy with life, dreams, and hope. It’s the guy with Jesus.


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