What My Friend Taught Me About Confession

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. - James 5:16 ESV

Have you ever experienced the discomfort of studying this verse with a small group? It’s uncomfortable because the text leads us to ask a question…


“Does anyone have a sin they need to confess right now?”


Honestly, I would hope any small group would ask this question while studying this passage together. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by reading the Bible to gain more knowledge alone. We must also apply what it teaches and share it with others.


It’s just that nobody likes to talk about their sin. It requires me to put myself in a place of vulnerability and trust people to handle what I’ve shared with grace and truth. It also requires a firm understanding of my identity in Jesus, that I am not defined by any one sin, but by the One who forgives me of all sin.


For many years, I heard this passage preached in sermons and taught in small groups, but I wasn’t confessing my sins to anybody. That required too much vulnerability and it just felt weird in those settings.


Then one day, a friend taught me about confession in a way I will never forget…


He confessed his sin to me.


We were catching up in my office when he started sharing frustrations about another co-worker. He didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, as many of us had faced the exact same challenges with that particular colleague.


A week later, while eating lunch together, he brought up what he had said in my office. “I need to apologize to you,” he said. Surprised, I replied, “Ok. For what?”


“I shouldn’t have said what I did about our coworker to you. While my feelings may be valid, I didn’t honor him before you, and certainly didn’t paint him in a good light. The Lord has convicted me this week, and I’m afraid I may have changed the way you perceive him. I should have gone to him with my frustrations instead of coming to you. For that, I’m sorry.”


I didn’t know what to say. Never had anyone opened up to me like this before, especially for something that is common in the workplace, and for which I was certainly guilty of several times. “Well,” I said after taking it in for a moment, “thank you for sharing that. I don’t feel like you owe me an apology, but I certainly want to forgive you. It means a lot that you would share this with me. Especially since Jesus told you to do so.”


In a moment of humility and vulnerability, my friend taught me what it looks like to confess one’s sin to another. For the first time, the words of James 5:16 came to life for me as I saw my friend obeying this command from Scripture. It was humbling to offer forgiveness, knowing I was just as guilty as he was, and made me seriously consider if had recently dishonored Jesus by how I spoke about others.


I’ve been talking a lot this month about teaching others, because I’m convinced that too many people are reluctant to share their faith because they feel like they don’t know enough or are unqualified to teach others. Jesus was a master at teaching people through everyday ordinary situations, and often did so by doing the things He saw His Father doing (John 5:19).


I’ve created a free resource I want to give you. I hope it will encourage you to teach others like Jesus did, and like my friend taught me that day over lunch. It’s called, No Curriculum Required: 3 Ways to Teach People Like Jesus Did.

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