Confess Your Sins to One Another? Really?

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.      James 5:14-16 ESV

I don’t like admitting my faults. And I don’t like labeling them sin either. And I certainly don’t like “confessing my sin” to anyone else. Yet, that is James’ instruction for us as we go to God in prayer for healing. Hmm… What’s with that? Does it apply to the “lifestyle illnesses” – diabetes, obesity and the rest? If so, how?

At my church, we participate in a common confession as part of every worship service. It goes like this, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves…” In addition, the worship leader may lead a period of silence for individual prayers of confession and repentance.

That sort of confession certainly doesn’t hurt too much. It’s pretty easy to say, “I’m a sinner.” After all, so is everyone else. It’s a whole lot harder to get specific, and a quantum leap beyond that to be specific and public. Who can readily admit that, “I don’t treat my wife well,” or “I slack off at work,” or “I’m lazy,” or “I’m greedy,” or any one of their many actual sins? Not me. It’s against human nature, which pulls us in the opposite direction. Typically we try to hide our sins from each other; we want to look good. We struggle with sin internally, trying and failing to get better, praying for help, all the while pretending that we’re okay. But it just doesn’t work.

Admitting the hidden issue to another person does. Many individuals struggle with secret sins or problems (or problems they think are secret) of which they are ashamed. They may feel trapped, helpless, unable to change, and unable to ask for help. Once the secret is revealed, even involuntarily, they are suddenly liberated, not necessarily of the sin itself, but of the helplessness and enslavement. It is interesting that steps 4 and 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program are to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and admit “to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

I was discussing this with my friend Pastor Jay Perez this afternoon, and he likened this to the physical processes our body uses to eliminate harmful substances. The intestines, liver and kidneys work together to remove waste and toxins through our bowel movements and urination. Occasionally we eat something really problematic and vomit it right back up. Some things just need to come out of us, and the sooner the better. So it is with the feelings and thoughts that drive our sin. We need to get them out in the open, by revealing them to someone else.

Do you have a secret preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle? Are you trapped and struggling with anxiety, stress, emptiness, emotional eating, excessive drinking, pleasure seeking, or other secret feelings and/or harmful habits? If so, confess to God, confess to yourself, and tell a trusted friend. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! Jesus makes it okay to reveal your secret or to confess your sins, and that’s often the start of getting well.