Our failure to engage in the corporate dimension of confession stems from at least three possible sources.
1. What Will They Think?
The first is a disconnect between our so-called public and private lives. We fear what people may think of us if we really told them our secret thoughts, our implacable greed (not simply monetary), our censorious spirit, our constant irritability. Wouldn’t they second-guess our every action? Wouldn’t we lose their respect? Failure to confess sin to others is, in essence, a failure of integrity.
2. Whom Do We Fear?
And this is intimately connected to the second source — a misplaced fear. Tragically, we more greatly fear those with whom we have sin in common than the one whose very presence is the splendor of holiness. He knows precisely and intimately (and with perfect clarity) all the dimensions of our sinful hearts (Psalm 44:20–21; Proverbs 21:2; Luke 16:14–15). From him we cannot hide (Jeremiah 23:24). Isn’t it a prick of insanity that we fear those who could do nothing more than shame us rather than the one before whom we will one day appear and the secrets of our hearts will be disclosed (Luke 12:45, 8:17; Romans 14:10)?
3. What Is Confession?
Both the first and the second sources are linked to a third — a deficient understanding of what confession is and does. Confession is not optional for Christians. John asserts that the mark of genuine fellowship with God is not only the recognition of one’s proneness to sin (1 John 1:8) but also corresponding confession (1 John 1:9). And, as we’ve already seen, it is expected in corporate life, according to James 5:16.