We have a responsibility to communicate our needs to those closest to us. It’s not loving to sweep their sins under the rug or to tolerate their annoying habits without saying anything. This will only enable their behavior and feed bitterness in our hearts. Repentance is a gift of God that leads to life and healing (Acts 11:18; James 5:16). Let’s cherish it, cultivate it, and live in gratitude and dependence on God as we seek to model it in our lives.
Imagine you’re on Family Feud and Steve Harvey gives the following prompt: “We asked 100 sinners, ‘Name one reason why you do not repent of your sin to one another.’ The top seven answers are on the board.”
What do you think the most common responses would be? I’d offer these seven.
We don’t repent because . . .
- We’re completely blind to our sin, or we don’t think our sin is bad enough to warrant repentance.
- We don’t think the other person deserves our repentance. Maybe we think he sinned first, or he sinned more, or his sin caused our sin, so we refuse to repent until he does.
- We don’t think repenting will help anything. Sometimes we fear our repentance will fuel the other person’s pride, appear to ignore her faults, or lead to further conflict. So we stay silent.
- We are too proud. Repentance means admitting we were wrong—and that we need mercy—which requires Christlike humility. Sometimes we don’t want to stoop that low.
- We are too ashamed of our sin or too afraid of the consequences. Repentance also means giving up (the feeling of) control over our own reputation and putting ourselves at the mercy of others. This takes vulnerability—something many people run from.
- We don’t want to change. Biblical repentance requires turning—changing our behavior—which can feel a bit like heart surgery. Many resist confessing their sin because they love it too much to give it up.
- We don’t know how to repent. Many people never had repentance clearly modeled in the home or taught in the church, leaving them unequipped to put it into action.
Why Should We Confess Our Sins to One Another?
James 5:16 gives us a helpful starting point: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
This verse gives us at least two motivations to confess our sins to one another:
1. Because God commands us to.
2. Because God commands us to for our healing.
Repentance is not a punishment God makes us pay after we sin; it’s medicine God uses to heal us from our sins’ ravaging effects. God uses our repentance to enliven us (Acts 11:18), refresh us (Acts 3:19–20), restore us (Luke 15:11–24), cleanse us (1 John 1:9), and enrich our fellowship with him and with one another (1 John 1:6–7). Repentance is not a curse to fear, but a gift to cherish.
How Do I Repent of My Sin to Someone?
Repentance can be hard, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.