James5:16says, “Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in his working.” Those who were involved with the Crossroads andBostonmovement know how this worked with them, but it was mostly a one-way street. The neophyte did most or all of the confessing to the prayer partner or spiritual advisor. It was made to seem quite logical to him/her because they were impressed with the fact that they had the most sins to confess and needed more help than those to whom they confessed them. They did not know how those confessions were recorded, analyzed and used, but that perversion is not the purpose of this article.

I want to point out some values of doing what James says for us to do, in the way it was meant to be done. Although it is probable that he is still talking about the same kind of sick person to whom he refers in verse 14, there are some kinds of healing that are involved in confessing our sins to others that James may or may not have had in mind.

A sin known to you, but hidden in your heart in hypocrisy, may be like a cancer eating at your soul, your conscience, and your life. It can injure both physical and spiritual life. The pressure of living a lie, fearing you will be discovered, destroys your ability to function properly as a Christian, and removes a great deal of joy from your life. When we confess it, it is like being healed of that cancer. Of course, we do not have to confess every specific sin to all our friends, though we must be willing to confess them to God in order to be forgiven and get rid of them.

However, confessing them to another person or persons does some other things that are important. It creates an empathy and sympathy, for the other person knows he has sinned. When one confesses a sin to a friend, he may feel a kinship with you that he did not feel before. He may now be able to be more open with you and share his thoughts and burdens in a meaningful and helpful way.

Second, it removes another kind of burden of which I have seldom heard anyone speak. If I am hiding my sin from you, I may live in constant fear that you will find out. In some cases, if you do find out, you may hold it over my head as a sort of blackmail, making me your bondservant. This even happens occasionally in the case of a husband or wife who may know of some unsavory incident in the life of the other, and threaten to tell if the spouse does not yield on some point.

However, if I confess my sin openly, no one can frighten or burden me with the thought that someone will find out. I am made free or healed in some specific and wonderful ways. When Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,” he suggests that there are some burdens that we may help others bear. Verse 5 says, “For each man shall bear his own burden,” where a different word is used, showing that there are some burdens we cannot share. I cannot bear the burden of the guilt of your sin, but I can bear the burden of pain you may feel as a result of it, and give you understanding and comfort as I help you realize that God has forgiven you. Thus, I may help you to be healed.

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