I don’t know why we ignore this verse, but I’m pretty sure we do, or at least we skip over the plain sense of it.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16).
When’s the last time you did that? When’s the last time you got your sin laundry list out, sat down with a Christian friend, and confessed the many ways you’re struggling in your relationship with Jesus?
“Okay, well first I probably need to confess the sin of greed and covetousness, and then there’s also lust and gossip and selfishness.” Ever said something like that?
I said I don’t know why we don’t do this, but I think I know. We avoid it because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We’re embarrassed. Nobody’s got this much sin but me. If I start confessing all this stuff, I’ll be getting sideways glances at church for the rest of my life. The church’s rumor mill will be on overdrive.
The closest we get to doing anything like this is in our tradition of responding to the “invitation song.” The preacher asks those who might have prayer needs to come “down front” at the end of the sermon, and they can submit their requests.
But that’s a far cry from what James writes here. Our way of doing it is very impersonal, and it lends itself to generic, “I’ve sinned and need forgiveness” kinds of prayers. There’s nothing wrong with those in their place, but James is pointing us to something way more personal, and much more powerful.
If we started doing this like we should, I bet there’d be a huge sigh of relief in our churches.
“You mean you struggle with that too? I thought I was the only one.”
I’m guessing we’d be amazed at how liberating it would be to live and worship in a church environment where we don’t have to pretend every Sunday that we’ve got it all figured out. Too often we’ve got our church clothes on, our Sunday smiles on, and our religious airs on. We’re all pretty much perfect.
Except we’re not. We might just put a façade on to impress other people and keep them from seeing the real us.
I wish we’d start obeying James. I wish we could confess our sins to one another in small group settings and enjoy the freeing experience of recognizing that we’re all in this together, and we’ve all got sin problems.
If we did, I think we’d see the church’s becoming more of the close-knit, hand-in-hand, on-our-way-to-heaven-together kind of community of believers.