Even If I Caused You Sorrow: On Being Instruments of Godly Sorrow, Part 2

June 2, 2011

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Steve Cornell

Even If I Caused You Sorrow Part2

Note: In Part 1, Steve shared biblical reasons why we need to overcome our reticence to confront. In Part 2, he explores four principles of godly versus world sorrow from 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

1. God’s Instruments of Sorrow

The apostle paints a vivid picture of how one ought to feel about being an instrument of godly sorrow:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.” (2 Cor. 7:8-9)

The vacillating back and forth expressed in these verses indicates the tension one feels in being an instrument of sorrow. No pleasure is taken in bringing pain into the lives of others. But sometimes love requires us to take this role. You need courage and faith to embrace a ministry of intervention and grace to accept the possibility of being misunderstood.

Confronting others about deception and sin is a risky ministry of love. We must be willing to suffer changes or even loss of relationships. Sometimes when we choose to be instruments of godly sorrow, those we confront turn on us and malign us. This is what happened to the apostle Paul. But the response was temporary with those who responded with godly sorrow.

The apostle took the painful path of embracing temporary misunderstanding to gain deeper and lasting relationships based in truth and love.

2. Godly Sorrow Comes from True Believers

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor. 7:10). This could be translated, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that points to the reality of salvation or indicates salvation.

When confronted about error, sin or false doctrine, genuine believers will ultimately come to their senses and acknowledge the truth. They might respond with resistance or anger at first. If so, those who confront must not over-react or lower themselves to the level of anger. Don’t take the bait and escalate. Keep it pastoral not personal. Trust God’s Spirit to cultivate conviction.

Genuinely saved people ultimately respond to their sin with godly sorrow (cf. Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:9-14;I Peter 5:6).

3. Worldly Sorrow Must Be Detected

“….but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Worldly sorrow is perhaps best understood when contrasted with the description of godly sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7:11. Worldly sorrow brings death because it is sinful and all sin ends in death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:14-15). Worldly sorrow is self-centered and is typified in Cain’s self-pity over the consequences brought on by his sin (see: Genesis 4).

4. Godly Sorrow Described and Detected

“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (2 Cor. 7:11).

After Paul had confronted the congregation about their refusal to properly deal with a sinful member, they responded with godly sorrow. Consider the seven elements of godly sorrow.

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you:

1) Earnestness: Intense and earnest care (not a passive acquiescing).

2) Eagerness to clear yourselves: A desire to be exonerated.

3) Indignation: Probably toward themselves for allowing sin to go unchecked in their assembly

(or, toward the sinful member cf. 2:6-7).

4) Alarm/Fear: Toward God for their failure to respond properly to his apostle (cf. 4:21).

5) Longing: A desire to be restored to their proper place and to fellowship with Paul.

6) Concern: A burning desire to do what is right.

7) Readiness: To see justice done (i.e. to see things be corrected and made right).

Because of their repentance, the apostle could say to them, “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

Godly sorrow involves a willingness to take seriously the offense committed. True repentance flows out of humility (Luke 18:9-17), and a readiness to accept responsibility. A visible and wholehearted change of behavior follows true repentance (godly sorrow). It produces “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8a). The apostle Paul said, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20b).

When called by God to be instruments of godly sorrow, prayerfully take inventory of your own heart and life before confronting others. Go in a spirit required in Galatians 6:1-3

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”

Join the Conversation

How could these principles of godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow impact your personal life? Your ministry?


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