Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.
(James 5:16-18, Message)
I have been thinking about the notion of confession of sins one to another. Why don’t we do it? Maybe it is because we have acquaintances now instead of friends. By friends, I mean those who can give restorative criticism and confront. By friends, I mean those who could hear the most horrific detail come out of my mouth and want help me in spite of it. By friends, I mean people I actually spend time getting to know. Maybe we don’t do it because we think it is a “catholic thing.” Protestants have given way to much to the catholic church and this may be one them. We gave them the arts, the history, and maybe confession too. Throughout history in a effort to distinguish ourselves as Protestants, perhaps we shed too many things that remind us of our older brother. The idea or theological truth of confession to another person is often shouted down by the sound of someone quoting I Timothy 2:5. “There is one Mediator! (and it’s not the priest!)!” While theologically that is true, what do we do with James 5:16?
Maybe we just don’t confess our sins one to another, because we have “matured in the faith.” I would like to think so, in the case of myself, but I think there is one reason: Pride. We have to humble ourselves to confess our faults to another person. Aquinas said,
Those who acknowledge their evils, are beloved, not for their evils, but because they acknowledge them, for it is a good thing to acknowledge one’s faults, in so far as it excludes insincerity or hypocrisy. (Summa Theologica, Q.26.A. 2)
I think we need to return to a good thing: the confession booth. Maybe this time in Starbucks or in a favorite restaurant with a fellow Christian journeying with you through the struggles of life apart from perfection.