Yesterday, I messed up.
I don’t just mean that I slept through my alarm (which I almost did), cut someone off in morning traffic (a daily occurrence. hash tag northern driver?) or said a naughty word when I stubbed my toe on the baseboard in my bathroom (“eff!” is my favorite these days).
I messed up–I deliberately did something that I knew in my heart was against God’s best for me. It felt awful. It was embarrassing. It helped me momentarily but in the end, left me feeling like I’d rolled through a pile of garbage and rotten food. And nobody knew–that is nobody knew except for Jesus and me. It was a secret sin.
In James 5:16, James tells us that these are exactly the sort of secrets that we should spill.
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.
For those of us who belong to Jesus Christ, we know we are forgiven past, present, and future sins the moment we receive Him. Why then is James so insistent that when we sin, we confess it to each other? Isn’t Jesus really the only one who matters in this equation? James says “No.” And he isn’t telling us to do this so we can have shame, punishment, or rebuke heaped upon us; he says it’s “so that you can live together whole and healed.”
Here are three reasons why I believe that confessing hidden sin makes us whole:
1) When we give others an opportunity to love us in the middle of our sin, it’s easier to believe that God does.
Last night I texted my friend Jen about what I’d done. She called me a few minutes later and we talked and prayed together. Because she has received grace from Jesus, she extended that same grace to me. I felt so loved when she didn’t judge me, but instead encouraged me to keep pursuing Jesus. She called out the best in me. Jesus does the same, friends. It was easier for me to remember the character of Jesus when someone was being his forgiving hands and feet to me.
2) The enemy loses his grip of shame on us.
I recently listened to a sermon by Renovation Church Pastor Jonathan Martin in which he said, “we are never more like Satan than when we accuse.” Satan’s name is the accuser. See, the enemy is already rejoicing that you sinned. He’s already thrilled that you took a momentary step away from God. And he’s not the kind of bully to just walk away from you when you’re hurting: he’ll keep kicking you when you’re down. When we come out of spiritual hiding, with both hands up in surrender, we walk out of the pit of the enemy and into the light of the truth. It’s a lot harder for Satan to whisper the lie “But what if ______ ever found out about this? They’d hate you!” when _______ already knows.
3) Honest conversation gives the Holy Spirit room to move
Last night as my friend Jen and I were talking, she said something to me that I’d never heard, in a heart-understanding kind of way before. For months I’d been focused on eliminating this particular sin out of my life. It’s been holding me back for far too long and I’ve been taking active steps towards freedom in it. But what Jen said to me wasn’t about the behavior at all–it was about my heart. When we dug down together beneath the surface of what I was doing to the motive of why I was doing it, I saw the place of hurt and frustration it was coming from for the very first time. “That’s what I want to heal, BeLoved,” Jesus whispered to me.
See Jesus is always interested in our hearts. If you follow the thread of any sin you commit, it will wind its way back to something there. The Bible calls our hearts the “wellspring of life.” If we are gushing nasty water, it’s because there’s something off in our “well.”
If I had never confessed what I’d done to Jen, the Holy Spirit would not have had the opportunity to speak through her and bring my attention to something going on deeper within my heart. Jesus wants exactly what James writes about–for me to be whole and healed–and he knows that confession in community is the only way to get there.
If you’re struggling with secret sin right now, I encourage you to find someone safe in your life who you know will meet you with truth+love to confess to. If you don’t feel like you have that person, please go to Meet Molly and send me an email. I’d love to give you tips on how to find safe people in your life!
On Thursday, I’ll bring back a post I wrote a while ago on how to move on from a mistake.