Don’t get excited…I’m not planning on doing that in this article, so all you people who’d love get some dirt on me, just settle down. ;) What I want to do is take this passage from James and flip the focus of it a bit.
At one of the churches I attend, the pastors have been teaching on “the one-anothers,” which I would like to go more into in future article (all the scriptures that exhort us to love one another, prefer one another, support one another, etc… look them up, there are a lot). The sermon today was about accountability and how it isn’t limited to a list of sins we have committed that we have to sit down and confess to some priest. That is the fist part I’d like to point out in this passage, we are to talk to one another, back and forth, between fellow believers about our struggles and successes, not to some person who is set apart from us. Every believer is a priest in Christ, and we are all called to be an ear to our brothers and sisters.
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The focus of sermons on this passage tend to zero in on the “confessee,” the one doing the confessing. Today’s sermon was no different, and it was a good one. However, I’d like to switch the focus to the “confessor,” the one listening. I am a licensed counselor and I can tell you the important stuff that we “learn” as we move toward licensure is already available to everyone…in the Bible. Listen to one another, love one another, weep when your brother or sister weeps, REJOICE when they rejoice, pray for each other (NOT in the way that ‘I’ll pray for you‘ gets better translated into, ‘I think you are a piece of dirt, so I’ll “pray” for you.‘ But, real genuine prayer)…
The attitude of the confessor is just as important, or perhaps even more so, as that of the confessee. The person listening to another person’s problems should be mindful of the situation, of the respect and trust it takes for one human being to confide in another. If you should be so honored with someone’s confession, as a brother or sister in Christ, give the other person the respect of at least really listening to what they say. Don’t think that you have to solve their problem, but do really listen to what they have to say.
Give a crap. There’s a novel idea. Think on that.
Half of helping a person bear their burden is simply to listen to what they are going through, and let them know that they are not alone. Most people don’t need a sermon preached to them while they are going through tough times, save the platitudes, but a word of empathy and encouragement will not be out of place. Pray for the person, if they like that kind of thing pray with them, but you can even pray for them when you are alone. If you are hesitant about the “righteous man” part of that passage, don’t worry; as long as you are in Christ, you are righteous because of the righteousness you’ve been given, not because of your own works.
People in today’s society are used to superficial social interaction. A sort of hit-and-run approach to listening to someone else. Our own minds go in a thousand different directions at once. You want to know the key to being a good confessor? Listening. Hearing and absorbing what the other person is really saying. We are also told not to be judgmental. If someone is telling you about something they’ve done wrong, it isn’t up to us to judge them; how arrogant. We believers are all one family, we are all part of the body of Christ, and there is no room for arrogance and feelings of superiority.
My thought for the day can be summed up thus; LISTEN to one another. (I dunno…I kind of like the “Give a crap” line from before…)