When someone confesses sin in your Cell Group, it’s a good thing! They are acting as “children of the light” as Ephesians 5 commands us to do, exposing their sin, and seeking help and restoration. James 5:16 commands us to “confess your sins to one another, that you might be healed.” It can be a powerful thing when someone who has been living in the shadows brings their sin to the light, but sometimes others can be left wondering what their response should be. As leaders, it will be up to you to set a godly precedent when this type of situation occurs. Don’t worry! The Bible gives us some clear guidelines in this area. Below are some thoughts of how you should respond when someone confesses sin in your group.
Remind them of the promises of God. Galatians 6:2 commands us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When someone confesses sin, we must come around them and remind them of the promises of God, and do what we can to help them overcome the sin that they have confessed. A great way to start is by praying for the person. Ask that God might bring victory over their sin and restore them to himself and anyone else they may have wronged. Remind the person of the truth in 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Extend Forgiveness. If the offense is towards you or the group specifically, forgive the person as Ephesians 4:32 commands. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven by Christ, without continuing to hold the offense against the person any more.
Call them to true repentance. Remember that just because a person confesses sin, this doesn’t mean they have truly repented of it. Confession means to “say the same thing” as God does regarding our sin, but repentance is to do a complete 180 degree turn from it and continue in a new trajectory. Lovingly call the person to produce “fruit in keeping with repentance” as Matthew 3:8 commands. This “fruit in keeping with repentance” is evidence that they have set a new trajectory in life. They should be obviously fighting against the sin and seeking to form new habits that spur them on towards godliness.
Help them with a plan. Accountability may be necessary in the person’s life, and one of the reasons for confession is to surround yourself with others who can help you overcome sin. If the person doesn’t seem to have much of a plan for overcoming this sin, or if their plans don’t seem to be working well, sit down with the person one on one to discuss a biblical plan of attack. If you are unsure of how the Bible speaks to this person’s problems, include a wise counselor who can help you put together a plan.