James 5:16 (NIV)
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
The confession here required is that of Christians to one another, and not, as the papists would have it, to a priest. Where persons have injured one another, acts of injustice must be confessed to those against whom they have been committed. Where persons have tempted one another to sin or have consented in the same evil actions, there they ought mutually to blame themselves and excite each other to repentance. [Matthew Henry]
In his bestselling book, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative, tells the story of Jimmy Dill, a convicted murderer who had been scheduled for execution in the state of Alabama. Stevenson's staff took on the case in the last 30 days of Dill's life because Dill not only suffered from an intellectual disability, but his conviction had been based on suspect evidence that Stevenson's team believed to be erroneous. Had Dill been able to afford a lawyer the first time, he wouldn't be on death row. As it happened, though, nothing could be done. In the last hour, Dill called Stevenson to say thank you for trying.
In his chapter entitled "Broken," Stevenson reflects on our common story of brokenness:
When I hung up the phone that night I had a wet face and a broken heart. � I thought myself a fool for having tried to fix situations that were so fatally broken � I worked in a broken system of justice. My clients were broken by mental illness, poverty, and racism. They were torn apart by disease, drugs and alcohol, pride, fear, and anger � In their broken state, they were judged and condemned by people whose commitment to fairness had been broken by cynicism, hopelessness, and prejudice �
After working for more than twenty-five years, I understood that I � do what I do because I'm broken, too. My years of struggling against � injustice had finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn't just illuminate the brokenness of others � it also exposed my own brokenness � We all share the condition of brokenness � I desperately wanted mercy for Jimmy Dill and would have done anything to create justice for him, but I couldn't pretend that his struggle was disconnected from my own. The ways in which I have been hurt�and have hurt others�are different from the ways Jimmy Dill suffered and caused suffering. But our shared brokenness connected us. [Adapted from Ethan Richardson, "No Wholeness Outside Our Reciprocal Humanity," Mbird blog (1-7-16)]
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. For confession depowers the sin within us and helps us to begin the process of healing.