Many in our church tradition believe we should only confess our sins to God because there is one mediator between man and God and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). I agree there is one mediator, but what do we do with James 5:14-16? Here it tells us to confess our sins to one another. What good can come from confession and how can it help us heal?
One example I can provide that will assist us in understanding the power of confession is found in the field of psychology. Many of the concepts we find in psychology today have a Biblical basis. One such concept is catharsis. This is the uncovering and reliving of early traumatic conflicts. One example that was provided to us in a college class involved a woman named Patty who suffered severe headaches. After it was found that nothing physical was wrong with her, she underwent psychodynamic therapy. This is therapy that helps you understand your present through your past. Once Patty built up rapport with her doctor, she was able to open up more and more about her past. What was discovered was that as a child her father had molested her. By talking about this issue she learned that her headaches dissipated. This is due to the fact that some of our physical ailments are the result of psychological or mental ailments. Many people are assisted every day by talking with counselors about past issues.
Imagine you are on your way to work and you almost get into an accident. This may shake you up a bit. When you get to work you may still be dealing with the emotional reaction you felt in dealing with the car incident. If you mention the near accident to your colleagues at work, this will help dissipate the emotional charge you are feeling and allow you to function as your true self rather than being upset or distracted from the car incident. If we bottle up all our problems inside and don’t relieve the stress and guilt we feel, the stress and guilt will manifest themselves in some other way that may not be positive.
A number of years ago, a man who had killed four women fifteen years before walked into a police station and confessed to the police what he had done. There are numerous other stories like this. The stress and mental anguish we feel from sin needs to be released. This is a natural and normal reaction that even a murderer was aware of.
The Hebrew word for confession in the Old Testament is yadah, which means to “throw a stone or arrow at or away.” Confessing the sin gets rid of it for you, and you don’t need to dwell on it any longer. In the Atonement day ceremony, when the sins were confessed over the live goat it was then sent away into the desert. The idea was that the sins of the community were gone for good. God understands how He has made us. He knows that we need to flush our mind of these sins and issues through discussing them with him in prayer and with our fellow brethren.
Think of it in connection with the waste we flush from our bodies each day. We take in food and drink and absorb the nutrients from these things. We then have to flush the waste of the food and drink from our system or we will build up toxicity in our bodies.
Without removing the waste we will get sick. The same is true of our mental waste—our sins and the sins that others perpetrate on us. We need to flush our minds of these issues in conversation or we will build up toxic levels of mental issues in our minds. Confessing is the flushing of this mental waste material. Notice what David says in Psalm 32:1-5. He says when he was silent (did not confess his sins) his bones or body hurt. But when he finally confessed it to God he was forgiven and his pain was gone.
When you can confess your sins and faults to others, people realize they are not alone. Others will realize no one is perfect. People can see themselves in your faults. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable through self-disclosure, it makes it easier for others to then reciprocate by opening up about themselves. This leads to people drawing closer together. And that is what God wants in His family. He wants us to grow closer together as a church family and opening up and confessing to each other can help us in this process.
Now of course you don’t want to tell everyone everything there is to know about you. Some people are not mature enough and are likely to tell others about your problems who don’t need to know. But there should be some close members of the church you can go to with your issues and concerns. As you become closer with others through fellowship, more and more people can become friends you can confess to. Fellowship is so important because it helps build trust, which then provides the opportunity for confession.
The pages of your Bible teach that we need to not only confess to God, but also confess to one another. God knows this outward expression to other believers we can trust can assist us in being more complete and open human beings. Once we are OK mentally, we can then help others in the world who are suffering. Being able to open up with those suffering in the world is made easier if we have been practicing it with those in our church family.