2 Corinthians 7:8-10. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Have you ever been reprimanded? Called out? Chastised? Confronted?
For a time as a pastor at a church I lived in a state of passive aggressive discontent. Mostly because of my pride. I believed I wasn’t being heard. I was not supported. I was stagnating. I disagreed with my boss (another pastor). I knew better than him. This erupted in a conflict that became public and polarized the church. I resigned my position. There were meetings. Lots of meetings. One really bad one in front of the whole church. I was accused. He was accused. It hurt. But I knew I was right.
I left town for a week. By God’s grace I met with my sister-in-law’s pastor. He listened. And listened. And listened. And then he exposed my sin. He confronted. He called me out. He called me Jonah. It hurt.
I tell you this story because it illustrates the two kinds of sadness that Paul talks about. Worldly sadness and godly sadness.
At first I was sad because I was being hurt. My life was hard. I was the victim. I was David being chased by Saul. But this was worldly. Selfish. A worldly sadness leading me to death.
Warning: mild language, themes.
After being confronted, I was sad. But it was different. It was a sadness that led to repentance. I was sad over my sin more than I was sad over my situation. I asked for forgiveness. From God. From the other pastor. From the whole church. It was hard. But it was grace.
The same thing happened in Corinth. In between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians there was another letter. It is sometimes called the “severe letter.” Paul confronted the church. He exposed their sin (again). It grieved him to send it. He even regretted it for awhile. But the letter did its job by the work of the Spirit. It brought grief that produced repentance. The church learned to repent and to forgive.
“To live is Christ” does not mean that we won’t sin (obviously). It does mean that when we sin, and when we are confronted, we have a chance to respond with godly sorrow. This is what the life of Christ in us will produce. Sadness unto life. True contrition. Sorrow over the sin itself, not the consequences of the sin. Grief that results not in loss of relationship but in the reconciliation of relationships.
Is your sadness over sin godly or worldly? Do you only display shallow remorse, regret, and self pity when you are called out for your sin? Or does confrontation produce peace in your heart? How can meditating on your union with Christ allow the exposure of your sin to produce peace and salvation in the midst of the sadness over your sin?
Here’s a playlist to help you find that godly sorrow.