In James 5:16 we are commanded to do the following: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
“Therefore” means “because the preceding is true”… In other words, he is sayng “You should do this… it will be good for you.”
Confess your sins to one another. When is the last time you did that? What does it mean, anyway? Does it mean I apologize to you for being harsh or critical? Maybe I’ll confess that I said something I shouldn’t have…
There at least four reasons why this mutual confession is good for us:
1. It causes us to consider the sin in our lives
When we consider this, a panic may set in about how much of our sin we want to confess to the someone else. Will we reveal all our sin or will we hold back the “really big ones”?
If we never confess our sins and faults to one another, it is easier to minimize the seriousness of the sin and ignore the potential consequences. This is less likely if we confess these faults to one another.
In addition, if we are going to approach this practice honestly, there will be a deterrent effect. If I know I will be sharing mutual confession with you on Friday, I may rethink me action in the days before when I am tempted to sin.
2. It causes us to seek out trustworthy people
One of my favorite songwriters, Bill Mallonee, has a lyric in a song called “A Certain Slant of Light” that goes like this:
Tell me your deep, dark secret,
And I will tell you mine.
Is that your deep, dark secret?
Oh, well, nevermind…
There is always this fear. What if… the secret sin you’re about to confess is way “out of league” with your mutual confessor? What if… that person tells others about your sin? Will you take the risk?
Of course we do need to be wise about what we reveal and to whom. Confession to the wrong person can quickly become a sinful form of exhibitionism. But avoiding mutual confession completely is a clear disobedience.
3. It encourages dependence on others
I have found this to be true of my relationships. Perpetual platitudes and shallow talk, while enjoyable, will not lead you into intimacy of relationship. It is not until we have seen both sides of a person that we really begin to know them. And it is not until we have revealed both sides, or all sides, of our selves that we are really known.
There is no intimacy without risk, but we fear this vulnerability, not realizing that without it our hearts become stone and not only do bad things not get out, good things can no longer get in either.
4. That we may be healed
Like Jesus, James uses words that have meaning in a physical as well as a spiritual sense. “Healed” is one of those words. Clearly in the preceding verses he is speaking of physical sickness, but in verse 16 he must not be telling people only to pray for each other when they become fatally ill. Here the healing he speaks of is spiritual.
But how can we possibly “confess our sins” to each other if we are not in authentic relationship with each other, or if we don’t cling to grace as a foundation for our faith? God has put us together to suffer with each other and also rejoice together.
Practicing mutual confession will allow us to enjoy the full spectrum of relationship with God and others.
When was the last time you practiced what is clearly commanded in James 5:16?