Question:

Hi.

I recently wrote in concerning confession of a sin. I wrote a letter confessing my sin of fornication that resulted in a pregnancy to the church elders. They called a meeting with me to discuss the letter. I was instructed to turn to James 5:16 in which they interpreted to me that in this verse James was referring to the entire congregation when he said, "one to another." This is something I disagreed with. I've found no verse in the Bible stating that I'm required by God to confess before the whole congregation. This was what I told them as well.

They've asked me to allow them to read my letter before the entire congregation so that other members will know I've confessed and repented of this sin because if I don't then other members will see me being pregnant and unmarried and assume that I'm still living in that sinful situation. I've confessed, repented of this sin and have already been forgiven by God. The elders, as well, have prayed for me.

My question is whether there is biblically anything else required of me? Have I overlooked a verse stating otherwise? Thank you in advance for your help!


Answer:

"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" (James 5:16).

Notice that the prayer is of a righteous man (singular) that is the result of confessing to one another. The Greek word allelon can be for multiple people, or it can be singular, or it can be multiple people one at a time. The context has to be the determining factor.

While James 5:16 doesn't prove the point, it doesn't mean the elders are entirely wrong. You committed a sin that everyone knows occurred (or will know before long); yet, you wish to hide the fact that you've repented of that sin. What is likely to happen is that each person who realizes that you committed fornication but doesn't know you repented will be obligated to talk to you about your need to stop sinning and repent (Galatians 6:1). Yes, you could handle it one at a time, but I'm positive that by the tenth time of explaining that you've changed you are going to get tired of it.

Try as you might, rumors are going to spread before people realize that you've repented of your sin. Instead of having your brothers and sisters pointing out on your behalf that you've changed, your reputation and the reputation of the church can become damaged.

The simplier way is to let everyone know at once that you have sinned and you have changed your life, though you have to live with the consequence of your sinful choice. In this way you clear yourself. "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:11).

Letting everyone know isn't for the purpose of being forgiven. It is so the sinful past can be properly buried and everyone can move on with life. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).