Are you getting a lot out of reading Ed Anton’s book? I know that I am. I feel like I’ve repented on repentance. It’s been an eye opening experience, to see the true nature of repentance isn’t behavior modification, it’s mind modification.
Let’s read from 2 Corinthians 7:
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
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. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 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. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
If someone were to ask me the main point of this entire passage, I’m not sure that Worldly vs. Godly sorrow is it, although it is certainly an important point. It seems to be more about Paul trying to get the Corinthian church to see how powerful and important their relationship was. He already knew it, but they did not. Look at the opening verses, Paul is pleading to be let into their hearts. He assures them, they already occupy a special place in his, and he wants that place in theirs. I believe in you guys, I would die with you guys, so please, make room for us in your hearts.
After he talks about Godly sorrow, he explains why he wrote to them (aside from confronting their sin). He says it was so they could see how devoted to him they were. I had to read that several times. He wrote to them, and conftronted their sin, so they’d understand their own devotion to him? It sounds a little self serving, perhaps even controlling. No, I think Paul knew what kind of power there was in this close bond they had, and he knew they needed to understand this as well. What power? The power to produce a mind change, metanoia, mind metamorphosis, repentance. They didn’t get it and needed to.
We need these kind of relationships. More importantly, we need to understand, like the Corinthians did, just how powerful and important these close relationships are. They can and will change our lives, here and now and for eternity. Are we cultivating them or are we too busy or too timid? I know I can be both, and it can be hard to overcome, but we must. I’ve become convinced that a church dies as the individual relationships in it die.
I was also struck by Paul’s comments about his time in Macedonia. He was beat up there, “harassed at every turn” he says. But what encourages him? The news that the Corinthians had taken care of Titus and the news he brought back of how important Paul was to them and how they were concerned about him. It replenished his joy. OH yeah, seeing Titus was good but hearing about how you took care of him and missed me really encouraged me. I’ve felt similar thing recently as I’ve watched the church respond to James’ illness by going several hours away to sit at his side. I know seeing how concerned you were for them, filled their hearts. I know watching folks do it, filled mine as well.
As we take communion, we remember Jesus. I think that Jesus too was concerned that we have connections with people, relationships that will last (where do we think Paul got it?) He understood that it was relationships that were key. He could have preached hundreds of grand messages to thousands at a time, to be written down so that we could learn how to live. Instead, He spent his life on earth healing people one at a time and pouring his life into twelve men so that they could change the world. He taught us in Matthew 22:34-40 that the most important thig was not our Bible knowledge, but our love for God and our love for each other. Even while on the cross, he looked down and knew that his Mom needed to be cared for, and he made sure that she had the relationship that would make that happen.
So as we look at and remember Jesus at this time, let’s not just be thankful that our sins are forgiven. Let’s also remember who Jesus was and what He invested in while he was here.