Have you ever said, “I’m sorry” without really meaning it? I know that I have. When we are raising children we are quick to have them say, “I’m sorry” to someone when they have wronged someone but we all know that saying “I’m sorry” and being genuinely sorrowful can be two different things. In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul writes about this particular idea. Here is what he writes: 9 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. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. There are two particular thoughts I have about this passage.
First, godly sorrow produces repentance, a genuine changing of the mind about our attitude and/or behavior. But the sorrow of the world produces death. What is Paul talking about here? I believe Paul is contrasting sorrow that produces forgiveness from God (godly sorrow) and the phony, lip-service “sorrow” that doesn’t lead to forgiveness and eventually, in a theological way, leads to death. Genuine sorrow and repentance of sin is needed to receive salvation. Anything else does not lead to life but rather death…and in a metaphorical way, can lead to the death of a relationship.
Second, notice the benefits that come from godly sorrow. Paul lists diligence, indignation, fear, desire, zeal, and vindication. There are great benefits that come to you when you are genuinely sorry. We are not primarily providing benefit to the person to whom we say, “I’m sorry.” We are mostly providing benefit to ourselves. There is a genuine cleansing of the soul when we repent…we genuinely do have a desire to move forward with zeal and desire. We are cleansed from sin and free to experience forgiveness. I hope that you will ask God for forgiveness with a genuine heart and then share that forgiveness with others. Godly sorrow, genuine sorrow, has great benefits.