At the heart of every twelve step program, like AA, there is an emphasis on holy confession. We confess the path that our urges and inner demons have put us on. We confess our inability to manage them by ourselves. We affirm our commitment to change our course and walk on a new path. James, being the New Testament’s wisest wisdom book, resonates with these truths. In James 3:13- 4:10 we are urged to think about the costs associated with following our selfish desires. He matches each description of sin, with an assurance that God’s grace will be there for us, if we chose a different path. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” James assures us.
How can we speak about this truth without drawing on a personal example that we are embarrassed to confess in public? This is the great challenge. If I go to an AA group, there is an assurance of confidentiality is given before I make my confession. I have often experienced a similar, grace-filled, environment in the sacred space of a prayer circle or Christian friendship. The church is filled with the wisdom that James is talking about. The one place this assurance of confidentiality does not cover, however, is the pulpit. So we must use fictional stories, the biographies of saints in glory, and the great narratives of the Bible to speak this truth. We also from time to time, feel led to tell our own story — but with careful words and humility.
It might be healthy to tell people our rules, from time to time.
Special Rules for the Pulpit:
- I will not allude to a family member, or a member of the congregation, without their permission.
- If I share someone’s words, I will take care to speak them accurately and in context.
- I will not denounce someone’s actions without speaking about how I share some of the same selfish desires.
- I will encourage each person to seek trusted guides and to participate in small groups where they feel free to share and receive healing and grace. At the same time, I will encourage every group and mature Christian to commit to sacred confidentiality.
- I will emphasize God’s grace and the forgiveness that is offered to all.