2Co 7:8-10 “For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
It is often difficult to tell people we love the things they need to hear. Because we love them, we are concerned about their feelings and how they will react to us. Even when we say what we know needs to be said, we sometimes question ourselves about whether we did the right thing or said it in the right way. It is a great relief when we discover that what we said was received with the love it was meant and had a positive result.
Paul had written to the Corinthians previously and found it necessary to address a number of issues. Some of them had apparently fallen into preacher worship (1Co 1:12) while others were flirting with idolatry (1Co 8:10). The brethren were not showing proper care for one another, and the church as a whole was not truly dedicated to worshipping God. While Paul’s love for the church at Corinth apparently caused him to be concerned about addressing these matters, his love for them was so great that he was willing to risk their love for him to tell them the truth.
He knew that he would hurt some feelings by the things that he said. We clearly see Paul’s humanity in the fact that after he sent the letter he was sorry that he had. He “repented” that he had sent the letter; second-guessing himself as to whether he had done the right thing. What a relief he felt when it proved to be the right thing to do after all! He still regretted having to hurt their feelings, but at the same time he was now assured that confronting them with the truth was the right thing to do.
If we ever find ourselves having the attitude that we are glad we had the opportunity to “put someone in their place” then we have a problem. Paul’s rejoicing was not in the fact that he told them about the things they were doing wrong. His joy came in the evidence that they, by God’s grace, moved past their hurt feelings. The saw the truth of his counsel, and their sorrow lead them to correct those things he wrote to them about.
Since they were brought to a godly sorrow, they understood that Paul was showing them a great depth of love and not just being mean. He did not set out to do them harm, but rather to see them abound in the grace and love of God. Their godly sorrow had worked in them a repentance of the wrongs and in that there was a salvation for them. They were not in danger of losing their eternal life because of their actions, but they were suffering a loss of peace and unity in the Spirit.
Paul realized that he should never repent of doing what he was called to do in order for his brothers and sisters to enjoy the deliverance of obedience to God. He was thankful that it was not a worldly sorrow that they came to, because there would have been no deliverance in that. When our sorrow comes only from the fact that we were caught doing wrong and someone was bold enough to call us on it, the end result is death. We die to the truth of the love that was shown to us and the one who loved us enough to tell us our error is left to grieve the loss of fellowship.
I pray that we will always diligently consider the loving correction of those who love us enough to tell us the truth. It is not an easy thing to do, and those who are called to put themselves in that position often struggle with questions like “Did I use the right words?”, or “Did I pick the right time?”, or “Are they going to shun me for this?” Those who truly correct us in love sorrow with us, and then rejoice with us when they see that truth bring us to godly sorrow.
May God bless us to both give and receive correction from His word with love, rejoicing that godly sorrow yields repentance to salvation that no one has to be sorry about!