Posted in Christian Living, Christianity

Pleading the Fifth?

One of my mother’s most cringing stories from her childhood involves the time when she got caught trying a smoke for the first time and was dragged to the front of the entire congregation that Sunday by her mother (who smoked, by the way) to confess her sin.
But she never took up the habit.
My Bible reading this week included James 5, where we are reminded that we are forgivable and are therefore instructed to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . . .”
I could be wrong, but I think it may be hard to find a church body where sins are regularly confessed amongst each other. I’m not saying the modern church doesn’t support each other. I am saying that even in a small modern church, not to mention the huge, popular churches that are the sizes of some small towns, it would be difficult to find an environment in which we could be so vulnerable. What would we do if we spent a chunk of each time together exposing the core of what makes us human? What would it do for us to hear our own sin confessed before fellow travelers, witnessing in their eyes the compassion and horror that we should feel about ourselves as we fall short of God?
What would happen, for instance, if one part of service involved everyone speaking aloud their sins of the past week, a cacophony of confession that only a God as powerful as the One we claim could understand? The idea brings to mind the gathering of the Israelites in the book of Nehemiah. The people have been scattered from their homeland under the Babylonians for generations. Finally, under the Persians, they are allowed to return to their homeland and begin to rebuild their temple and their defensive walls around the city of Jerusalem, not without tremendous obstacles. As the work is being completed, the entire community gathers to read the Law and confess their sins, standing for hours as Nehemiah leads them in this group effort at redemption.
When was the last time you were in a situation where you were made to utter something aloud that you hesitated to speak about? Why did you hesitate? When you finally said the words, how did you feel? Did the world end? Did whatever you feared actually happen, and was it as bad as you thought?
God wants us to confess our sins to Him. Through Christ, we are promised forgiveness when we truly repent, no matter what we have done. Have you truly repented of something that you haven’t said aloud to yourself, much less somebody else?
And just what is the end result of all this confession? James tells us that, too, at the end of verse six: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
“No man is an island” as the poet says. We all function more effectively in community, even when it comes to doing one of the hardest things a human ever does, admitting when we are wrong.
Wherever two or three believers gather, He is there. Can you find just one more person of belief this week to share your confessions with, as James admonishes? Think about what kind of difference it could make for you and for the person with whom you share.


I am a 40-something Texan with a feisty cat and a supportive husband of 20 years. With a Master's degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, I have taught creative writing at Texas Tech, won awards for my writing and been blessed to be mentored by Horn Professor and poet Dr. Walt McDonald. I earn a living by helping my husband's family run a health food store, but my avocation is writing. I hope you enjoy reading about some of my triumphs and tragedies as I continue to work on figuring out what life is all about and on growing my ability to share my writing. May your own journey be a blessed one.

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