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.
In 1970, when Janet and I were dating, there was a popular movie called Love Story. A catchphrase from the film was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Back then, for whatever reason, the sentiment sounded good, but it was wrong. In fact, love requires apologies, requests for forgiveness, and even — confession.
God wants us to live in harmony. When we say and do things that hurt one another, we should act swiftly before the fire consumes our relationships.
“… confess your sins to each other” doesn’t mean that you bear your soul to everyone you meet. Rather, you should seek peace in relationships in which problems have arisen. When you cause offense to another — apologize, confess, and seek amends.
Jesus placed a high priority on resolving the troubles that arise between you and others. And his emphasis isn’t just on those who wrong you. Jesus wants you to seek reconciliation even when the grievance is against you. That responsibility is expressed in the following scripture passage:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
Think about that for a moment. Have you or anyone you know ever left a Sunday morning worship service to hunt down a friend or relative to seek reconciliation? I’m guessing the answer is “no.”
Jesus is concerned with motive, the heart behind the action. In verse 21 of Matthew 5, He calls attention to the Mosaic law, that “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” Then Jesus adds to that mandate by including intent. “… anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (v22)
Confession is open and honest dialogue in which truth behind actions is revealed.
What happens when your efforts at reconciliation are rejected? Well, that becomes an issue between them and God. You have done your part and obeyed the Lord. Keep on loving. Keep on praying for God to change their heart and attitude toward you. Meanwhile, maintain a godly spirit in your thoughts and encounters with that person.
Jesus wants us to be peacemakers. We should expect nothing less from the Prince of Peace. He produced peace between God and man through His sacrificial death. And He wants us to strive for peace in our relationships with one another. And, yes, sometimes there will be sacrifice involved. Difficult people don’t just suddenly change because you have offered them an olive branch. In fact, they may try to hit you with it. Resisting the urge to hit back will feel like sacrifice.
Jesus has high expectations of His followers. But then again, should we be surprised? Shouldn’t the bar be set high for children of the King?
Not only are we told to confess our sins to one another, but we are also to pray for each other. Imagine the power of praying with those you’ve been at odds with.
What a difference it can make in a marriage. The husband who apologizes for his rude behavior, seeks forgiveness, and then prays with his wife for a strengthened relationship. The wife who lovingly airs the reason for her anger, asks for forgiveness, and then prays for the joy to be restored to their marriage.
Is there someone who has a problem with you? Pray for God to give you wisdom in seeking to clear the air. Ask for Him to give them a receptive heart. Have you offended someone? Pray for the Lord to give you courage to own up to your sin before them. Ask for Him to be with you as you seek to make amends.
Love means sometimes you have to say you’re sorry.
If you’re troubled by a relationship, check out this message: The Key to Better Relationships
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September)