At our Trunk-or-Treat event last year, my fiancé Pam greeted one Trunk-or-Treater, “Hello, Batman.” The young boy, in a most serious and earnest tone, leaned forward, pulled down his mask and told Pam, “I’m not really Batman, it’s just a mask.” It’s fun to “dress-up,” but is there a deeper meaning to this in the Christian life?
In “Mere Christianity,” CS Lewis presents a vivid image of the “business” of Christianity:
What, then, is the difference which He has made to the whole human mass? It is just this: that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing.
Lewis relates this to a fictional story:
The other story is about someone who had to wear a mask; a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for years. And when he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What had begun as a disguise had become a reality.
Lewis then expands this to a commentary to the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer:
Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. … The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to “inject” His kind of life and thought into you.
Paul uses this imagery in his writings. Romans 13:14 urges us to, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ as a man puts on a garment,” and in Galatians 3:14, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
William Barclay comments on the Galatians passage:
Baptism was no mere outward form; it was a real union with Christ. Paul goes on to say that they had put on Christ. There may be here a reference to a custom which certainly existed later. The candidate for baptism was clothed in pure white robes, symbolic of the new life into which he entered. Just as the initiate put on his new white robe, his life was clothed with Christ. The result is that in the Church there was no difference between any of the members; they had all become sons of God.
Barclay then makes his meaning even more clear:
There is something of very great interest here. In the Jewish morning prayer, which Paul must all his pre-Christian life have used, the Jew thanks God that “Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” Paul takes that prayer and reverses it. The old distinctions were gone; all were one in Christ. … Only one thing can wipe out the ever sharpening distinctions and separations between man and man; when all are debtors to God’s grace and all are in Christ, only then will all be one. It is not the force of man but the love of God which alone can unite a disunited world.
It is nearly a year since the riots in Ferguson MO, and four months since the riots in Baltimore MD. Problems of race and how we understand and relate to those “different from us” remain unsolved in the United States. In searching for a solution, perhaps a first step is to “put on Christ,” and hope that someone mistakes our new identity. Or perhaps, like the man in the mask, our fallen lives might even become shaped to the mask we’ve put on.
What a joy to be greeted, “Hello, Christ,” only to have to pull down our mask and explain reality to those we meet.
John McMillan, Author