Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (Matthew 21:22 NLT)
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CONFESS MY SIN TO SOMEONE ELSE!
Well, that’s not going to happen.
Those are the so-called famous last words of someone whose faith wasn’t strong enough or developed enough to understand how much healing occurs when we unburden ourselves to one another (man to man or woman to woman).
There is a reason God put those words in His Bible, and it wasn’t just to give us another entry on our Bible verse memory flash cards.
What’s more remarkable is who God called on to give us those words. It was James, Jesus’ half-brother. James was the oldest of the pesky younger brothers who failed to understand during childhood and adolescence that their “perfect” older brother, the goodie two-shoes, was actually God, himself.
Talk about having some sin to confess.
How about, “Jesus, my Lord and Savior, please forgive me. I’m the one who told our father — actually, my father, I guess he wasn’t yours — that it was you who spilled the sawdust from his workbench into the cake Mom was baking for his birthday. Actually, it was me. I did it. I’m sorry.” Pause. “You knew? How?” Pause. “Oh, right, of course you did.”
I REMEMBER HOW LIBERATING IT WAS TO CONFESS MY SIN TO A MORTAL.
Severals years ago on a Sunday morning, I was given several opportunities to place my father on our small group’s prayer list. My mother had passed shortly before.
I chose to skip each time the offer was extended, choosing instead to lift prayer for other members’ aging parents, marital and financial issues, and probably even their sick pets,
I simply wasn’t willing to “give” my father the healing power of corporate prayer. Now, I was not a Christian at the time — still a seeker — but still the irony of my father-less prayer circle should not have been lost on me.
At lunch that day, I received a text message from one of my brothers telling me that Dad had been diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer.
I was crushed. It wasn’t so much my sadness for my difficult dad’s physical trauma — it was the weight of my own failure to extend the blessings of God’s healing grace, not only to my father for his illness, but also to me, for my hardness of heart.
That afternoon, I picked three close friends from the prayer circle and “confessed” in an e-mail my sin and my father’s need.
Immediately, the Holy Spirit went to work. Among other things, He led me to contact Dad’s local church across the country and inform them of his condition. Without his being able to tell them, there was no other way anyone would know, at least for awhile.
One person I shared this story with said, “Thank God you called his church.”
“Yes,” I replied. “Thank God.”
AS THE NEXT FEW YEARS PASSED, I became a Christian, confessing my sins and telling the Father I believe His Son is the Christ and that I need Him to reign in my heart. Please send me the Holy Spirit. Thank you very much!
I also became more comfortable with the notion of confessing sin to another man. I also learned why the confession-acknowledgement ritual could not be man-woman because their mutual interest would interfere with the information that would need to be shared.
The verse in James to confess your sin “to each other” and subsequently pray “for each other” implies a mutuality here, wherein each person confesses sin to the other. Unless one man’s (or woman’s) heart is unduly burdened and needs immediate relief, this is not a one-way deal. This is a sharing among believers.
The larger point is that (a) God knows of our sin even before we confess it, (b) our confession of sin to God grants us forgiveness from the eternal consequences of sin, but it is only in (c) where we are granted forgiveness from among our peers that the real healing takes place.
Let us not forget that God is not our peer and that sin confessed to God, while necessary and liberating, still remains secret in the eyes of our friends and family.
ONCE I CONFESSED MY SIN, the Holy Spirit was able to use the opening in my heart to inspire me to appropriate action to help my dad, to relieve his suffering, even though he lived across the continent from me. Absent my confession of sin, I have no reason to believe I would have thought on my own of seeking help for him. The confession softened me.
Of course, the example drawn here in which confession was given is different from many of the examples we tend to face in that I was not confessing to the one against whom I had sinned. Still, the principle of emptying oneself in submission to Divine authority is the same.
Once we learn the confession part of forgiveness and the healing power of joint prayer, we can see how much easier it is to grant forgiveness.
The practice of confession to one another requires humility, especially because there’s no guarantee the other person will grant forgiveness. Still, confession must be given.
More recently, I’ve taken to heart the maxim that the partner who is stronger-in-faith should confess first. That can be taxing over time but probably is a worthwhile practice. God is calling on the stronger partner to act according to his greater faith.
GOD IS SO FAITHFUL.
Yes, He requires us to act according to biblical principles that seem easy when Jesus did them but difficult for us to emulate, but He doesn’t leave us helpless.
He gives us grace as our reward.
David was not only a warrior and ancient Israel’s greatest king but also a musician and psalmist. After a battle won for Israel by God’s intervention, David wrote these words, but they may comfort us in so many circumstances today:
“Those who sow in tears will reap with sounds of joy.” (Psalms 126:5 NIV)
PRAYER: Dear LORD, You are so merciful in giving us a way out of our sin. Not only have You shown us Your grace by offering us forgiveness when we repent, but You’ve shown us that by confessing our sin to fellow believers, we can experience further healing. LORD, protect us from the arrogance of pride that prevents us from taking advantage of this gift. Thank You, LORD, for Your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ Name. Amen