I was watching Captain America: The First Avenger the other day.  I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t too excited about it when it first came out.  I never really read the Captain America comics.  I was more of a Batman, Spiderman, X-Men kind of kid.  But I have been impressed with the other Marvel movies, so I thought I’d give it a chance, and I’m glad I did.  I enjoyed it.  One part of the movie stood out to me.  The main bad guy in the movie is Johann Schmidt, who is also known as the Red Skull.  Schmidt took it upon himself to try out a super-soldier serum developed by Dr. Erskine.  The problem: Schmidt was already a bad dude.  The serum simply amplifies the individual.  So Schmidt went from bad dude to supervillian… because it’s the comic book world, and that’s what happens.

But here’s the part that stood out to me as I reflect on today’s reading from Matthew 23.  At one point Captain America is rescuing a bunch of POWs at a HYDRA facility, and he comes face to face with Schmidt… who then proceeds to pull off the mask that made him look like that dude from The Matrix, and the Red Skull is revealed.  Here’s the passage from Matthew 23:

So practice and obey what they tell you, but don’t follow their example.  For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden (Matthew 23:3-4)

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve heard of Christians through the years is that they are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.  People who say one thing, judge others, all the while hiding their own sins.  The word “hypocrite” goes back to the Greek word that means “to play a part, pretend.”  Actors in ancient Greece often wore masks to help convey their emotions to the audience who were sitting too far away to see the actor’s face.  In this way, they could be one person behind the mask, and another for the audience.  Now we start to see why “hypocrite” is an appropriate term for some professing to be followers of Christ, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is not a new problem when it comes to people of faith.  As far back as the first century, people of faith have been teaching one thing while doing another.  Quite frankly, I don’t think this is a “people of faith” issues so much as it is a “people” issue.  But the problem comes in that people of faith are representing more than themselves.

There is a desperate need for authenticity in our world today; particularly from people of faith.  If we want people to know the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ, then we need to be examples in our own lives of what that truly means.  We need to take off the mask and let our true selves be revealed to the world.  And if that true self turns out to be something nasty and ugly… like the Red Skull, then maybe we need to start paying more attention to the words of life that are found in the Scripture.  Maybe we need a change.  Be who you are, but don’t be satisfied with it.  Allow yourself to be molded and shaped by the potter so that you are no longer wearing the mask.  Be true to who God is calling you to be.