In ‘I’m Sorry’ Is a Lie If THIS Doesn’t Hapen Part #1 we talked about Paul and how he rebuked the Corinthian church. We related it to how our spouse corrects or criticizes us. We left off by pointing out that the Corinthian response was different than many of the ways we choose to respond. It was good, praised by Paul and pleasing to God. What was different?
First, let’s discover how the Corinthians FELT when Paul rebuked them. It’s very important to consider the emotional weight of what was going on and to feel what the Corinthians were feeling. Paul puts it this way,
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. (2 Corinthians 7:8).
Paul’s letter cut them deeply.
They were emotionally distraught and sorrowful, crushed. They grieved. It’s the same kind of grief the disciples felt when Jesus told them in Matthew 17:23 that He was going to die, and in Matthew 26:22 when he revealed that one of the disciples was going to betray him.
They were experiencing the kind of grief that comes with the worst sort of news. Which brings up an important point.
The Corinthians had been given the worst sort of news – about themselves. Not, about anyone else. That’s why the response is so peculiar and impressive. Like we learned in the last post, we often become defensive and combative when receiving correction or rebuke. They grieved.
When was the last time you truly grieved over your own behavior? For the disconnected man or woman, the question could be, ‘When was the last time you truly grieved over anything?’ Disconnected people have a difficult time finding the emotion, the heart pain, to really grieve. But that’s beside the point for this post.
The key truth for us is this, there is a kind of grief that honors God and draws us closer to Him and a kind of grief that ‘saves face’ for us and keeps us in a relational prison apart from God and those we love. The question is, what’s the difference?
Here’s how Paul describes the difference,
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. 2 Corinthians 7:9
Paul is very clear. He did not rejoice because the Corinthians were made sorry. He wasn’t happy because he caused them pain (as some are when making someone ‘feel it’). It pained him to cause pain as he said in verse 8. No, Paul rejoiced because the kind of grief the Corinthians were experiencing was truly life-changing.
They weren’t trying to cover up, hide, or retaliate. They were looking at their own hearts and weeping over the sin they found there. This is the start of true godly sorrow.
When we can take a crystal clear look at our own heart, dig into what’s there, expose it to ourselves, and see it for what it really is; dark and dreadful. Then, and only then, do we start to really experience what Paul is referring to. It’s why, in the last post, I asked you to stop reading and think about how you respond when someone rebukes you. What happens inside you? It might be good to remind yourself of what you discovered about yourself in that post before reading on.
What Paul knows is that once we see ourselves for who we really are; deeply flawed, self protective, and exceedingly sinful. We can then feel the disappointment and grief about ourselves that is the beginning of true godly sorrow. But even then, when we are truly stricken and distressed over our sin, there is more.
This kind of self-exposure, this inner disappointment for our failures should lead us to do something. To change course, to start to develop different responses and to experience what the Bible calls repentance.
Let’s talk about that word repentance for a moment.
It happens to be the very first message John the Baptist preached. He called people to repent (Matthew 3:2). If that’s not impressive to you, it’s also the very first message our Lord Jesus preached. (Matthew 4:17) What’s it mean to ‘repent’. Simple. To turn around and go the other way.
When we are rebuked it’s typically because we have been going a certain way that is contrary to God’s best way. We walk in that way day by day. We build habits along that way that are hard to break. It’s hard to take a different path, to walk a different direction to the one that’s tried and true, comfortable from years of similar travel. A correction is a calling to pay closer attention to the way you are going and turn from it because it is leading to your destruction and dragging those around you along with.
That’s why this series is titled,“I’m Sorry” Is A Lie If THIS Doesn’t Happen”. The THIS is repentance.
We can say we are sorry until our final breath. But if those words are not accompanied by a habitual change of direction, they are meaningless.
The thing to remember is this; True repentance brings permanent change. There may be times of failure, but the overall course of someone who repents is different from what it used to be. So the test is not perfection, but direction. Did you change direction when you said you were sorry. Or, are you habitually repeating the things that you were rebuked for?
The natural question from here is, ‘How do I repent? Or ‘What does repentance look like?’ With a follow up question, ‘How do I make it stick?’
The truth is that we often have been walking in the same sinful direction for most, if not all of our lives. We’ve been responding in self-protective ways for a long time. We have habits of denial, defense, or disguise. We have to break off those trails to find a new path. And new trails are often in need of blazing. Hacking through the undergrowth of our tangled emotions, fording rivers of old hurts, climbing mountains of anger or disappointment, keeping the path open from encroaching memories, and other hazards lay in front of true repentance. But you can find peace, healing, and joy if you will stay with it.
I’d like to map it out for you; the road to repentance and making repentance stick. How do we do it? How does it last? We’ll tackle this in our next post.