“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed....” - James 5:16a
I find that many people misunderstand the idea of confession, even many Christians. Webster's dictionary defines confessing as acknowledgment. Confession is basically a statement of beliefs or an acknowledgment of one's guilt.
Upon examination of these two definitions there is a way to look at these through one concept or one word: agreement. In a confession, as far as Christians are concerned, is either agreeing with God about what He states as true, leading to a statement of beliefs, or agreeing with God about what He has judged as sin.
Here is the beauty of hope in confession or agreeing with God: a relationship is established or renewed. Relationships cannot happen unless there is an agreement of how the two persons are to relate to one another. If I wanted to be your walking partner, a kind of relationship, we would be required to agree on when to get together and walk as well as where and how far (Amos 3:3). To marry implies an agreement to have a especially intimate relationship. Friendship means an agreement as to what are the parameters of how intimate the two will be.
Just as with people, when I sin against the Lord I must confess my sin in order to be forgiven and reestablish my relationship with them or Him.
Here is something I find Christians will say when they confess their error: “I didn't mean to do or say that.” That actually goes against what Christ has taught.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” - Matthew 12:33-35
Clearly, Jesus says when we do or say something that is for or against a person and the Lord we meant to do that. If I lie to you I meant to deceive. If I hit you I meant to physically harm you. The same is true if I seek to encourage you or help you get up from a fall. Words and actions always come from a person's heart, because the heart is the source of who we are.
It is interesting to note when someone comments on something I write, usually something positive or emotional, they say it came from my heart as if that was unusual. Whatever I produce comes from my heart because my intent is involved. God forbid if I wrote something offensive or condemning because that would also be coming from my heart. I write these articles because it is in my heart to make these become a part of my heart. In a sense this composition is a confession.
So why confess something if you did not “mean” to do it? If it was not meant it was an accident. If an accident it is not a sin. An epithet or a punch is never an accident because the person doing that wanted to do that. Sins are done willfully. When I sin I do it for me, for my own selfish motives.
Now when we confess a sin we innately acknowledge that there is a holy way to act contrary to the offense. If I agree that I stole, a sin, I agree there is a better way, that of giving (Ephesians 4:28). Scripture defines what we have a sense of in regard to righteousness (Ephesians 4:20-24). In fact, when one looks at chapters like Ephesians 4 or Colossians 3 one will find a list of things, as if God is saying, “Instead of doing that, do this.” There are many such lists in the Bible, even the Old Testament.
So if I confess a sin I must confess a righteous practice to replace that sin. As it is when I confessed that I am a sinner I had to confess the need for a Savior (Romans 10:9-10). There is a promise in scripture for those who are sincere in confessing their sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9)
When we look at the verse that starts this article we see the promise of healing. Many people, even Christians, are not healed. But we must remember who is the audience that James is speaking to. He was speaking to the church, not an individual. The healing he refers to is the healing of relationships within the church. Divisions start with sin. Often confession does not happen when Christians state, “I didn't mean to do that” because they pridefully deny intent. We do that because of our nature that seeks to be independent of the Lord, another sin of idolatry.
I intended this to tie in with the following entry on "Forgiveness". I invite the reader to read that next, please.