In the book of James there is a verse that traditionally reads like this, “Confess your sins, one to another so that you may be healed.” James-5:16
I’m sure you can see how this has played a part as legalism in some of our denominations, churches and many different religions around the world.
When looking at the scripture at face value and using a loose understanding of it, this scripture cannot only become misunderstood, as it has, it can also be made into a doctrine that controls, scares and promotes a false emptiness for a lot of people. That is not to say that some haven’t been helped by doctrines that focus on confessing sin to one another, accountability is something we all need. Most times in scripture we find that God’s ideas are bigger than ours, God’s idea of sin is more than just doing bad stuff, God’s idea of repenting is bigger than just saying sorry for sins. God is so much Bigger.
Moses wanted a way to put God in a box similar to the way that we still do today in the modern church. Moses asked God, “Let me see you,” like Moses could have processed all that was God… Even on behalf of the Israelites, he said he needed a way they could express this God they couldn’t see. How do you speak of a God you can’t see? How do you share a God you can’t feel? They wanted a physical and mental box understanding of God… give us a name, some personality traits. But God said, no, he I will be who I will be, they will see me by my actions, they will know me when I come into contact with each one. He didn’t want a broad understanding of himself, he didn’t want everybody to know the same God, they would all have many different and diverse experiences with this God.
Back to the scripture, two out of three translators do not translate this word “sin,” which in Greek is par-ap’-to-mah and they agree on the original word here should be used is “faults,” we all remember what a fault is from geography class, rocks or plates which are cracked and moving, which might eventually lead to something collapsing over time, or even caving in.
The word healed is a holistic, universal and all covering word. So it would be best to use the word whole based on the Greek word ee-ah’-om-ahee which is a verb that is very similar to the Greek word sozo used for salvation, it deals with healing, deliverance, safety, mental health. etc.
The word, “confess” here is a rapid violent rushed verb. This isn’t about just talking. A picture that the Greek gives us is a man unloading and throwing it on the ground, this is something heavy, this is a secret, a struggle, some baggage.
So looking deeper in the scripture It reads like this; unload your faults to one another so that you may become whole, really whole.
Go into your closet and unload all those things, you thought you forgot about but they still affect you. You’re out working so hard because mom never said, “Good job.” You gave yourself to all those guys because dad just couldn’t hug you. All those things, those heavy things need to come out and it needs to be unloaded, in your women’s group, your home study, to your pastor, therapist or spouse, whoever you can trust but it needs to come out, so that wholeness came come in.
So then the Christian fellowship becomes more about letting your secrets out rather than keeping them in, or worse pretending that you’re the only one who doesn’t struggle to be an example for those around you.
Me, I don’t have room in my closet for any more skeletons, my body is so full of baggage I’m carrying around from past hurts and regrets.
I vividly remember hearing Jim Bakker speaking in NYC and He talked a few minutes about shame, he paused and humbly said, “I don’t have shame, I am shame, I’ve been shame since the day I was born, I could never please my dad, I could never be good enough I am Shame, but I am learning to live in the room of grace.”
I can’t tell you how much Jim Bakker has influenced me even to this day.
Confession is bigger than sin. It is unloading those bags, clearing out that closet, and coming to terms with who you are. You can’t do it alone, I would suggest finding a good church, some might hear your secrets and tell you to leave, but find a good church, good friends and spill it out, let those bags down one by one.
If you need to lay anything down, maybe it’s too heavy for you to lift yourself, shoot me an email and I will listen and well find out how to put it down together.
Adapted from a Chapter entitled, Humanity//Divinity: Talk about two faced from my new book coming this summer, An Emerging Spirituality.