Since one of the major gateways to sin is deception (think of Eve and the fruit, Israel wanting a king, Samson pursuing his lusts, etc.), it follows that truth is our first line of defense in dealing with temptation and sin. It enables us to see sin for what it really is and ourselves for how easily we’re sucked into it. Satan is a master counterfeiter. He sets things before us that promise joy, peace, and contentment, when the biting reality is they only lead to heartache, estrangement, and destruction. There are many roads we can avoid ever going down because truth helps us to see clearly where they lead.
But truth also helps us when we make a mess of things and end up on the wrong road. When we acknowledge the reality of our situation and ourselves, good things start to happen. In dragging our sinful tendencies out into the light, we expose them to the truth and they start to lose their power and grip on our lives. They thrive in the darkness of denial. The biblical term for this truth telling is confession and it is not only good for the soul but also helps to disentangle us from sin.
Although it’s not wrong to think about applying these things in individual terms, we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance and value of others. The community of Christ is to practice truth telling to encourage and strengthen its own and help us avoid being deceived by sin (Hebrew 3:12-13). But we’re also to practice it by confessing the sin that comes into our lives (James 5:16). I’m convinced we’re not to understand this passage as calling for an indiscriminate confession to everyone in general, but a confiding with those who can help. While confession to no one is unhealthy, public confessions can do more harm than good. Sharing the “sin that is you,” is delicate spiritual surgery that puts the confessor in an extremely vulnerable situation. When it is done right it leads to healing, when it is done incorrectly it can lead to disaster. Maturity and trust are imperative as well as an understanding that there will be some who will not be able to bear our purging (John 16:13), and don’t need to be involved.