Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Confess Your Sins One to Another

James 5:16 says:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
Two things:

1) It does not say, "Confess your sins to the whole church", although I believe that when the sin is public, the confession should be public. Rather it says confess your sins "to one another"; perhaps the implication is that we should have one-on-one relationships in which we feel comfortable opening up to each other totally; you can't do that with a large group; you can do that with one, maybe two or three, intimate friends. I think there may be an important psychologically-healthy injunction here.

2) It does not say, "Confess that you have sinned" to one another. Rather, it says, "Confess your sins". It seems to me that we are short-circuiting the Biblical healing process when we go before the church and say, "I've sinned, please pray for me", when what we should say is, "I've sinned by X, please pray for me".

For example, let's say I cussed out the check-out girl at the store as I bought condoms in preparation for a night with a prostitute. The next Sunday morning I go forward and confess, "I've sinned, please pray for me". Should the church assume I'm repenting of abusing the check-out girl, or for fornicating, or both, or neither? For the forgiveness of which sin(s) should the church pray?

Maybe I'm wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

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