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  • Jason Shirley

Confessing Your Trespasses

By Pastor Daniel Shirley

Many years ago, when my children were quite young, the Lord began to speak to me from this verse in James 5:16, “Confess [your] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” There were times when, like all children, my children needed disciplinary action to correct wrong behavior. I could go into a lot of scripture here to show that corrective action is a required part of parenting, but it should never be done from anger, revenge, or from any selfish motive on the parent’s part.

Before I go on to expound on what the Lord taught me from this verse, I want to say, never discipline your children when you are angry, or if you are feeling embarrassed by their behavior. Essentially, if your motive is anything other than their wellbeing, hold off until you get you right, then do what needs to be done.

There were times when my emotions about what they did or did not do got the best of me, and I acted from a wrong motive. Sometimes I overreacted, and the discipline was not fitting for what they had done. Sometimes, in anger, I said things that should not have been said. I don’t think I was unique in this. I think most parents have done this. I know that’s true because I have actually heard. I’m not talking about child abuse, just inappropriate response to their actions and attitudes.

The Lord took me to this verse in James. He said, “Anytime you react in such a way, a breach is created in your relationship with your children. Every time you fail to correct what you have done, or how you responded, the breach gets wider. This is how parents get to the place they loose the respect of their children.” Then He said, “If you, upon recognizing your fault, will do what this verse says, confess your trespass, not to God, but to the one you trespassed against, and ask them to pray for you, the breach will be healed.” It is a humbling experience to say to a three year old, “Daddy messed up. “I should not have yelled at you. I should not have said… I want to do better. Will you forgive me and pray for me?” Then you stop right there and pray for one another. This will be perhaps the greatest lesson you will teach them.

This is not just good advice for raising children, but it is good for any relationship. Many Christians confess their trespasses to God, but James is talking about confessing to the one you trespassed against. He is not saying, if you don’t confesses, God won’t heal you. He is saying, if you don’t confess to one another, your trespasses against them, the breach that was created cannot be healed.

Then don’t forget the last phrase of the verse, “Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

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