My dog ate a can of peanuts. I didn't catch him in the act. I know this because I cleaned up a pile of his feces in the backyard before mowing. He leaves pretty clear evidence of his trespasses. Strings and candy wrappers are not uncommon findings.
I once read a book called Collapse about civilizations that have ceased to exist. More often than not, petrified poop carries traces of human DNA. The implication is grotesque: When the going gets tough, people eat each other. We rarely catch cannibals in the act, but we know whom they had for dinner because we excavate their excrement.
Christians, like most humans, are full of crap. You can guess our indulgences by our digestive track. You may never catch us in the act, but dig around in our septic tanks for a few minutes and you can infer various guilty pleasures. Peanuts in the grass. DNA in the fertilizer. Envy in the grass clippings.
The Bible warns that some day every deed will be exposed, every motive laid bare, every word echoed, and every action will demand an account (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10). Shame and fear are typical reactions to this exposure (Gen. 3:8-10; John 3:20). So we lock the door when we're in the bathroom. And we wash our hands after we flush.
There is, of course, a better way. "Confess your sins to one another," John the Beloved disciple suggests, "and God who is faithful will forgive and cleanse you of any unrighteousness" (1 John 1:19). James, the brother of Jesus, adds, "And pray for one another that you might be healed" (5:16).
Sunday morning gatherings do not often lend themselves to public confession. A minute of directed confession by the pastor as the service and songs begin usually suffices. Right or wrong, this is the case. However, confession as John and James describe it take place best when the church is scattered in hallways, coffee shops, backyards, or bathroom stalls.