James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another that you may be healed.”
John Wesley often said that he instituted bands among the people called Methodist in order to create a setting where James 5:16 could be practiced and lived out.
In keeping with that verse, for the past eighteen months when Howard, Jonathan, Winfield and I have met together each week we have asked each other “Do you have a sin to confess?” In what follows, let me share briefly what I am learning about how valuable asking each other that disturbing question is.
According to James 5:16, healing happens when we confess our sins, not only to God, but to one another. Yet why is that? Why is confessing our sins, not only to God but to our fellow band members, such a catalyst in transformation? Engaging in this practice each week has caused me to ponder that question as never before.
Here’s what I’ve concluded so far: Because it leads to death and then to life.
Confessing our sins to one another forces us to experience a two-fold death.
There is a death to self and especially our religious self. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to tell others what I’ve done. What will they think of me?
Openly confessing my sins to my band members thus strikes a blow at the root of my pride, particularly my religious pride. It causes me to humble myself, to admit my weakness, my brokenness, my selfishness. And trust me, you can never go wrong with humility!
In addition to a death to self, there is also a death to the sin itself. My resistance to confess my sin to others forces me to ask, “Do I want to stop doing that so badly that I’m willing to confess it to someone else?”
Someone has wisely said, “Don’t tell God that you really want to be free from your sin if you insist on hiding it and being silent about it.” When we openly confess it, we are, in effect saying, “I want that destructive thing in my life to die.”
But in confession, not only do we experience a necessary dying to self and sin, we also experience resurrection and life. James tells us to confess and to “pray for one another.” Through the prayers of our fellow band members we receive grace as we hear the authoritative word of divine forgiveness spoken over us. We also receive empowerment through the Spirit to “Go and sin no more.”
Confessing to one another is also life-giving in that it draws us back into community, into fellowship with one another. In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it like this: “Sin demands to have us by ourselves. It withdraws us from the community. The more isolated we are, the more destructive will be the power of sin over us . . . In confession the breakthrough to community takes place.”
Confess your sins one to another. In my band experience I am discovering how vitally important this practice is. Truly, as James says, it is the pathway to healing.
A discipleship band is a group of 3-5 people who read together, pray together and meet together to become the love of God for one another and the world.
If you prefer a hard copy version of this guide with people you meet in person. You can get it from our store here.