There are many things that I love that I am somewhat embarrassed to share with people. For instance, I love Totino’s froze pizza. It is one of my guilty pleasures. I enjoy it, but I don’t tell everyone. I want them to believe that I have a more refined palate. Sometimes I do. But I also still love a good Totino’s frozen pizza from time to time.
I am willing to confess that to you in this blog, because it is funny and quirky and interesting. But how willing would I be to confess more than that? how willing would I be to go deeper and share some of the deep, dark things that I don’t want anyone to know about my life?
James 5 contains an excellent passage on healing ministry within the church, but sometimes we pay so much attention to what James is saying in verses 13-15 on healing, that we miss out on what he says in verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV)
James says to confess our sins to one another. That idea seems somewhat foreign to us. We are okay sharing things like our silly love for Totino’s pizza, but we don’t really want to go any farther than that. We don’t want to be that vulnerable. We don’t want to let others know the stuff we struggle with. We don’t want to air our dirty laundry. We are more comfortable letting others think that we have our act together.
But James is telling us to not hold that stuff in. We are to confess to one another. There are many benefits to this type of confession. It allows us to welcome and invite accountability into our lives. It allows us to publicly recognize our struggles. It brings dark things out of the shadows and into the light. It invites others to get involved in our brokenness and to pray for us and help us in our spiritual journey.
Also, it is interesting to note that verse 16 is part of this passage on healing. Sometimes when we have unconfessed sin in our lives, it can eat us up from the inside out. We can literally be stressing about our unconfessed sin to the point where it is causing physical problems and sometimes we don’t even realize what is going on.
It is also a benefit for the church as a whole. I believe the church over the years has done a disservice in that we have hidden sin, and pretended that we all have our act together. Confessing to one another breeds intimacy, and helps others be open to sharing what is going on in their lives. It allows those who struggle with similar things to recognize that they are not alone. It allows us to reach a new level of authentic community.
In order for this kind of confession to happen, we must not be judgmental and we need to be trustworthy. We have to be a safe place where people can be vulnerable without worrying that it will be used against them in some way.
James then goes on to challenge us to pray for one another. It is a natural progression for us to go from sharing with one another about our sins, our struggles, our failures, and our needs and then to simply pray for one another. And that also is good for both the individual and for the church as a whole.
But for this too we must be vulnerable. We have to stop asking for prayer for our neighbor or our great aunt, and start asking for prayer for ourselves. We need to let other people know of our struggles, our failures, our hurts and our pain. And then we can really pray for one another.
It doesn’t seem natural for us to be that vulnerable with one another. We are more comfortable sharing about the things that don’t really matter. But if we are going to become the church that God is calling us to be, then we need to put aside those barriers that get in the way and confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.