By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
For years, I sought to protect my (now ex-) husband. I thought I was doing the right thing by covering for him when he was—let’s just say—less than perfect.
I now recognize my actions were enabling—allowing him to continue in his sinful ways. There’s no doubt there was an element of survival because I knew confronting him would bring about a nasty tirade. It was definitely easier to help hide his sins than to deal with the verbally aggressive outburst that would follow.
But, one thing I have learned over the last decade is the importance of confession. It is the importance of vulnerability and honesty. It is the importance of accountability.
If we want to find the freedom God created for us, we must be willing to bring our sins into the light and ask other strong believers to pray for us and support us as we walk through the process of finding freedom from the sins that bind us.
God created us to live in community, and it is in community that we find the best opportunity to find intimacy with God. It is genuine, Christian community where we find the beauty of being honest about our sins. It is in community that we find other believers with similar struggles who can help us realize our humanity and yet drive us to a closer walk with the Father. It is in community that we find the strength of prayer and the presence of the Father.
For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
Let me stop here and clarify something: we are not called to air our dirty laundry on social media or to give a blanket confession to a large audience to draw attention to ourselves. I am talking about confessing our sins to those closest to us, to a safe community we know will walk with us on the journey to freedom in Christ. I am talking about confessing to our brothers and/or sisters in Christ who want to help us find freedom from the sins that so easily entangle us. I am talking about confessing to those friends who we know will have our best interest in mind and genuinely pray for our freedom.
Why is confession important? When we hide something, we are living an illusion. We think we are protecting something—someone—when in reality we are simply trying to hide a part of who we are. We hide things from others, and even from ourselves.
Think about the man or woman trapped in adultery. As long as they keep the secret to themselves, they can secure their reputation in the church, in the community. It can be exhilarating to have this secret. But, in the long run, it is also damaging. The addict lives with the constant shame and guilt—feeling dirty inside. They hide the truth from those closest to them for fear of being rejected if others know about this part of themselves. They run to their “secret” when they are hurting or feeling rejected because an image on paper or on a screen won’t reject them. Maybe they even interact with the person in the pictures through social media messages and they feel empowered, approved of. Maybe the pain is numbed—even if just for a moment.
And they fear their secret being exposed because in their mind it is the one safe place, the one place where the pain goes away—even if it is just for a brief moment in time.
In The Secret Language of Money, authors David Krueger and John Mann discuss the power of coming clean. They state, “Having a secret is a way to continue to hold onto something and freeze it in a time capsule. The possibility of telling a secret threatens unleashing the feelings packaging it, especially shame, as well as dissolving the illusion that is part of the secret. Often the hardest part of telling a secret to yourself is facing the illusion…”
And, this is precisely why we must be willing to come clean with the right people.
Confession brings sin to light. God is the light of the world. It is only in the light of His goodness and grace and mercy and love that we find healing and hope. When we confess, we bring our sins into His light and we finally have a chance to be free of the besetting sins that keep us from God’s best.
Confession heals. There is something about just being totally honest that brings a level of healing—even before God does the deeper work of changing us. Just the act of being honest with ourselves and those around us releases the heavy chains of bondage that keep us down.
A word of caution: Our sins—even though we may deceive ourselves into believing they only affect us—have ripple effects. Our sins affect others—especially those who love us most. While confessing is absolutely necessary for healing, we must be prepared for the consequences of our actions. We may cause pain and loss of trust. But, if we are seeking the Father, He will restore and make even better and stronger.
How do we help those who are struggling with sin?
Extend grace and forgiveness. As Christians, we are called to remember that none of us is without sin, no not one (Romans 3:23). It is only by God’s grace that we aren’t caught up in the same sin. But, there’s a good chance we have our own sins with which we are struggling.
When a brother or sister in Christ comes to us and confesses, grace and forgiveness must be at the forefront of our words and our deeds. We must respond as Christ would.
Pray. The effective prayer of a righteous man is worth so much! It is through prayer that we help restore our brother or sister in Christ. It is through prayer our brother or sister finds strength for the battle. It is through prayer God convicts us of our own sins.
Ask the tough questions. Scripture teaches us that the wounds of a friend are far better than the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6). It’s hard to ask the tough questions, to be the one who doesn’t let our friends deceive himself or others. Did you see something on Facebook that shouldn’t have been said? Was there an inappropriate Instagram picture or comment? Is the Spirit just telling you something isn’t right?
Ask the tough questions—and make sure that in grace you are reminding them you are being tough on them because you love them.
As the family of Christ, as we walk this journey together in true authenticity, we have the opportunity to help one another live life to the fullest, to live the abundant life Christ came to give us.
In this way, we follow the scripture that says:
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20