All Evangelicals are familiar with the passage in the book of James 5:15 that says: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
Do you ever wonder who and how many constitute the “each other” in the above verse? To whom and to how many do I have to confess my sin, so I can be healed? No matter how you feel about the Catholic Church, this is how they interpret the above passage. Once a catholic sees the need for confessing his sin, he goes to the perish priest, makes his confession and, for all practical purpose, that is the end of the issue. Most priests would rather go to jail than reveal what was confessed to them. But, for the most part, the Evangelicals still struggle as how to implement this verse in their everyday life. Let me give you couple of examples.
I met Scott, a well-educated, deep thinking and very attractive man, seven years ago. By that time he had been a follower of Christ for about five years. His greatest desires in these past seven years were to serve God and find a woman who would fall in love and marry him. To stay true to his love for God, he lived a celibate life. Following his pastor’s suggestion he had made a list of what kind of woman he wanted because, after all, if you pray hard enough and live a pure life, God will give you the perfect woman He has chosen for you.
Scott and I spend this past seven years praying, fasting and taking every practical avenue we could to find him a wife. He joined an on-line Christian dating service, went to singles’ meetings and allowed friends to introduce him to different eligible Christian women. Nothing worked! Probably because, we either did not pray hard enough or had sin in our lives (As usual, sarcasm is all mine).
About a year ago, not being able to find a Christian woman, he started dating a musician lady who was not a believer. Before attacking me for allowing it or Scott for going against God’s word and dating a non-believer, let me ask you a question, what is your solution? Do you have a better suggestion for a man in his forties who longs to have the arms of a loving woman around him so he can feel like a man God has called him to be? And please don’t you dare give the cliché that, “God alone should have been enough in Scott’s life.” Even God himself didn’t believe that bullcrap the church has been feeding the Christians for it was He who said, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” If I remember correctly, at the time when God said that, Adam had God ALL to himself and it was long before he sinned. So, apparently, when it comes to being alone, though God is sufficient, He is not enough.
Scott started to take his girlfriend to church. Finding out that she was a musician, Scott’s pastor hired her to play on the worship team. Everything was going well until Scott gave into temptation. Yes, he slept with his girlfriend once and his life has never been the same because he wanted to be obedient to the Scripture and confess his sin.
My friend happened to be working for a rather large Christian organization. Feeling convicted, he made the great mistake of confessing his sin to his boss. You would think with a little grace that would have been the end of the issue. No, the boss promptly demoted him and demanded that Scott go to his pastor and confess his sin to him also, upon which he was rebuked and striped of all his duties at church. But that was not enough. This horrible sinful act was reported to the president of the organization and eventually the whole executive team had to be informed of it. Knowing the power of gossip, I would not be surprised if within a few weeks the whole building knew what my dear brother had done.
I recently heard of a Bible college student, Mary, who, as they say it at that school, “broke covenant”; she slept with another student. Again, wanting to be faithful to the above verse, she decided to confess her sin to her female RA. The RA promptly demanded that Mary go before her overseers, a couple, and confess her sin to them too. After wanting to know the most intimate details of Mary’s relationship, the overseers made her go before a committee of three confessing her failure. I wish I could tell you that that was the end of the ordeal, but NO. Mary, then, had to go to the president of the college who made her go before the student body at chapel time and announce to the whole school that she had “broken covenant.” Of course, she was not expected to go into all the details (how generous of them!), but I can imagine all the rumors that started because of her confession. One more thing, she also was required to go to her Christian boss and several other people at her job and confess to them also, which cost her the job.
Going back to my friend Scott, out of humiliation and embarrassment, he left his church and quit his job and to be honest, today, he is facing a crisis of faith. As for Mary, whom I have known for a year, she didn’t fair out any better. As I was having lunch with her this past week, my conversation with this young lady who is about the same age as my daughter, 20-21, went something like this:
“You have aged, Mary.”
She smiled and replied, “That’s what my mother said too.”
“What have you learned from this experience?“ I asked
“Not to trust the authority,” she replied.
This is what one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, in his book, Ragamuffin Gospel, says regarding the prodigal son,
“for me, the most touching verse in the entire Bible is the father’s response: ‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly’ (Luke 15:20).
I am moved that the father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all the canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was.”
In the same book, concerning the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John, Brennan says,
“Jesus didn’t ask her if she was sorry. He didn’t demand a firm purpose of amendment. He didn’t seem too concerned that she might dash back into the arms of her lover. She just stood there and Jesus gave her forgiveness before she asked for it. The nature of God’s love for us is outrageous.
Why doesn’t this God of ours display some taste and discretion in dealing with us? Why doesn’t He show more restraint? To be blunt about it, couldn’t God arrange to have a little more dignity?
Now, if we were in His position, we’d know perfectly well how to behave. The prodigal son would have recited his speech down to the very last word. And when he got finished we would have said, “Well, you go away, prodigal son, and I’ll think about this for a couple of weeks. Then you’ll be informed by an e-mail whether I’ve decided to let you back on the farm or not.
I don’t think anyone of us would have approved of throwing rocks at the poor woman caught in adultery, but we would have made sure she presented a detailed act of repentance and to be firm in her purpose of amendment. Because if we let her off without saying she was sorry, wouldn’t she be back into adultery before sunset?”
Why is it that if I work for a Christian organization, everyone above me is supposed to be my spiritual leaders too? Where does it say that a Christian should spiritually be accountable to his floor manager or even the director of his department who are nothing but a couple of paper-pushers or at best administrators who never try to connect with the their employees on any other level than business? In front of how many people does a Christian have to be humiliated and disgraced before he is presumably handed his forgiveness?
Please, don’t for one minute think that I am suggesting that we are not responsible for our actions or that one should not be accountable for his mistakes. No, we reap what we sow. My issue is with a leadership that has been placed in authority to build up the body of Christ and not their own kingdoms by tearing down people who God has put under them.
May God have mercy on us for taking a passage, which is supposed to bring healing and restoration to the body of Christ to YET AGAIN another tool of destruction, humiliation and above all, control. Maybe that’s why, as Barna says, there are 13 to 15 million unchurched born again Christians in America. Maybe the unchurched are not longer longing for another mega church pastor, but for a leader who will accept and forgive them as and where they are.