Friday, February 16, 2007

Secrets, Sins, Burdens and Confessions

We had a very interesting discussion at home group the other night, it was probably the most uplifting and helpful home group for myself personally, in some time.

We've been studying the epistle of James recently. Martin Luther regarded the book of James as "the straw epistle". I think that's more than a little harsh, to say the least.

It is from James where we get this little gem of a verse, that I'm sure even if you are a non Christian reading this... you wouldn't disagree with:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

That said, I don't consider the word religion to be belief itself, I consider religion merely to be the "application of belief". That is why you can see so many people going through the motions of a belief system, without actually being passionate about it. I don't consider myself a "religious man", but rather a "man of faith". I suppose you argue that it's a similar thing to me identifying myself as British rather than English (curiously my motivation seems to share common traits).

Speaking about religion and faith actually brings me to the point of my post. One of the verses in our final study in James provoked a fair bit of discussion:

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. " James 5:16

Not being Roman Catholic, I don't believe in the sacramental necessity to confess my sins to a priest in order to obtain absolution. I believe in justification by faith, I confess my sins to Jesus and repent, he forgives me and I do my best not to sin again; reconciling myself to others if my words or actions have offended them.

Having said that, I do believe there is a time when it is good to reveal to a close friend or confidante, the things of the past that weigh heavy on your soul. A friend reminded me of this by recounting a story where I had done something wrong in the past, and had repented of it years before... but still bore the burden of it in my heart. We both remember well, the night we stopped on our bicycles... prepared to go our separate ways... and I felt motivated to confess what I had done. Ever since that day, the burden has never weighed me down... because it was shared.

Several years later, I was given the opportunity to repay the favour when, the same friend shared one of his burdens with me. This time it wasn't about sin... but about personal calling. In both cases, one of us felt motivated by God to reveal an uncomfortable or cumbersome truth to the other. In both cases the burden was shared and the load lightened. It formed the basis of personal spiritual healing.

So in a way, I do believe confession IS good for the soul... not when it is a ritual, but when it is an action motivated by the Holy Spirit... when it is an outward sign of an inward change.

All this, reminded me of another verse (this time from Paul's letter to the Galatians):

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

I wonder if you feel motivated to share something with somebody close to you? Maybe you should. It doesn't have to be anyone in a fancy frock... just someone you trust. Heck if you are really pushed, you can even try me... and you have my word I would destroy anything you emailed me, to retain confidentiality. I don't for a moment expect that anybody shall... but the offer is genuinely there.



1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:46 am

    I'm attending a Ministry School at the moment and one of our classes was about Spiritual Disciplines.

    In it, our teacher suggested that having someone or some people who hold you accountable and walk with you along your Christian path is not just healthy but essential.

    Confession is good for the soul, a problem shared is a problem halved... all those good old sayings are very true but in the 'modern' church we largely neglect or reject any form of confession.

    I don't advocate the catholic form of 'confession' but talking through your burdens with someone or some people on a regular basis is very healthy and very positive.

    Great blog post. Keep them coming!


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