If pride is at the heart of sin, humility is at the heart of redemption.
Christ’s finished work was accomplished only because He is the most humble man to have lived (Philippians 2:5-8). He relinquished His royal and dignified state as God to become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and suffer the death of a criminal to defeat the sin of all humanity.
In turn, we are called to die to ourselves, taking up our cross (Galatians 5:24, Luke 9:23). To follow Christ into resurrected life, we must be ready and willing to crucify that which is sin in us. To lay it bare and mortify it.
So we confess our sins to God, hopefully daily. If I am in regular and earnest confession to God, why would I need to confess to others?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has an excellent quote on this matter:
A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Confession to God is almost easy if we have lost awareness of the reality of His Being. It is far easier to say, “Only God can judge me,” than face the judgment of your fellow man – to see their facial expression, to experience the consequence of reproof and possibly rejection. A murderer who remains uncaught can live out his days in blissful ignorance of the judgment awaiting him at the end. Were he to confess his sin to another, his bliss would be cut short.
And so, how does confession heal? In confession to another, we see first a relational healing. The masks are off, the façades dropped, and festering wounds cleaned out. Nothing is hidden any longer. Through our fellow Image-Bearers, we see the face of the One whose image they bear, extending grief, forgiveness, and mercy. We find healing for offenses to one another and offenses to God when we can repent of our sinfulness.
What about the physical healing this passage speaks of?
Although this is met with the confusing debate of miracles and gifts and whether they continue or have ceased, what we can be certain of is this: we know God is a loving Father to petition earnestly in times of need. We know God delights to answer the prayers of His children (Matthew 7:9-11), and so we should not hesitate to pray for such a miraculous thing as healing for the one who is sick.
How God ordains to fulfill that request is, I believe, His sovereign prerogative. We can be assured of this, though – “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” It is in our interest, when seeking reconciliation or healing, to approach those seasoned in the faith, who are equipped to share wisdom, has a deepened relationship with the Father, and can draw us further into Christlikeness.
Like the man who was lowered to Jesus through the ceiling and was healed by the faith of his friends, so we, when we are weak, can rely on the stronger faith of others to be brought to the feet of the Healer.
So rather than live as the world does – under veils of a fault-free existence or celebrating sin openly – let us veil ourselves in humility and confess our sins openly to each other, receiving through this unity the healing and forgiveness that only our King can give.