Another great find from Luke Mackinnon, reading Steve Brown’s newest book, Hidden Agendas.

Steve Brown’s Hidden Agendas is a summer deep cleanse for the soul. He invites his readers to rip off their masks to “discover how God’s love propels us into the real relationships we thought we’d never have,” that we genuinely accept God’s acceptance and grace only when we face him and others unmasked–no matter how raw, vulnerable, or scary that may feel. This excerpt is pulled from the chapter tilted “Halloween Horror” and highlights God’s immense love and grace despite the constant efforts of masking our sinfulness.

We hurt ourselves and those we love because love isn’t love until it’s love that takes place within the context of the unlovely. If you’re not a drunk, you’ll never know the fellowship–honest, free, and joyful–of drunks who know it but find themselves loved. If you don’t think you’re a sinner, you’ll never dance before the throne of the Redeemer. If you don’t see how needy you are, you’ll never know the absolute and pure joy of being free with others who admit it and are free. 

Mother Teresa once wrote, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty–it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God… ‘We must be loved by God first, and only then can we give it to others. For us to want to give love to others we must be full of love to give.'”

We live in a reward-based culture. Do it right and it will come out right. Other than the fact that it’s not true, it really does sound good. After all, if we studied hard, we got good grades. If we worked hard, we got a promotion. If we were nice, people were nice to us. Never mind that sometimes our friend cheated and got good grades, or we worked hard and had a teacher who was a twit and didn’t understand how profound our answers to the test really were. Maybe we discovered that there were a whole lot of people who were simply mean to the bone and, no matter how nice we were, they would never return the favor. But even if that’s true (and it is), we still believe that if you do it right, it will turn out right. So we work hard, live pure, and are nice. When it turns out that we can’t work that hard, live that pure, or be that nice, we create a mask. The mask reflects our shame and the horrible fear that others will see. Then we become ‘islands’ unto ourselves, lonely, fearful, and guilty.

But what if we said, “I’m not playing that game anymore, even if nothing turns out right”? Let me tell you what would happen: love would happen. We would discover that God hugs dirty kids. Then love would happen to us from God and from us to others. It wouldn’t be the phony love that is given in response to being good, pure, successful, nice, and strong. That’s not love; that’s reward. In fact, you can’t know love until you know you don’t deserve it. In other words, you can’t know love until you are willing to risk getting it by taking off the mask. And within the context of that kind of love, the list of gifts God gives to those who are unmasked is incredibly long.