By Benjamin H. Liles
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.~ 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, New King James Version
There are some times where I believe I understand something well enough to talk about it. Then there are other times where even I stand or sit and wonder, "What does that mean?" Well, I've been wondering about this. When Paul writes this to the Church at Corinth he's not saying he's happy or even joyful they were humiliated in their repentance, which leads to faith in Jesus as Messiah. Actually, he's saying he rejoices with them, that their sorrow led them to godly sorrow over their sin and brokenness before Him.
Paul goes on here to say, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." In other words, these people at Corinth were made alive, made aware of how they hurt and pained God. This "sorrow" over their sins is what godly sorrow is. It's not the kind of sorrow that you know you have caused harm, which "produces death." It's the sorrow over what you have done that leads you to life.
I want to see if I can make this better understood. Let's look at Luke 15, where Jesus tells of a son who asks for his inheritance early and leaves his father's home. He goes off, squandering it all. His friends eventually leave him and he falls into hard times. He is in such a state he has to take care of pigs and this is when he "comes to himself." He looks at the food the pigs are eating and the food the pigs are eating looks good to him. How far gone in sin do you have to be to finally realize that too much is that bad?
This son suddenly has this realization "How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" (Luke 15:17). He has this "Ah ha!" moment in which he realizes his pitiful state and desires instead of being made right with his father, to being a servant. But what does this father do once the son gets back home?
We're told, by Jesus, "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this, my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry" (Luke 15:22-24). This son has been returned and restored to his position with his father. Why? Because he admitted what he did was wrong. He broke his father's heart. He broke an agreement he had with his father. Realizing and seeing this the father not only accepts the fact his son has come home, but he goes out of his way to "get on with the party" so to speak.
Yes, there is more to the parable of the Prodigal Son, but that's a different lesson. The one that's being shown here is how to have a genuine and healthy, restored and renewed relationship with the Father in Heaven. Have you realized how much your sin not only separates you from God? That your sin deserves to be punished? God's wrath is on anybody and everybody who does not realize their sin does more than separate them from Him.
We need Him to renew to us our minds. We need to see how far apart we are from Him in our sins. And this is what Paul is talking about with those in Corinth. So, really Paul is saying something like this: "Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death" (same verses but in the New Living Translation).
It is more than simply just crying over the wrong you did, but that you desire to change and grow from it; to have your relationship renewed and restored. It catapults the one who has been in sin to never want to be found in it ever again.