2 Corinthians 7:5-16, Psalm 73
Paul spends not a few words addressing the difference between “godly sorrow” and “worldly sorrow.” Besides the assertion that one type of sorrow leads to life and the other death, how can we know the difference between these two types of sorrow? Simply, “godly sorrow” leads to repentance spurred by indignation at one’s own evil; while worldly sorrow is self-protecting. As some have suggested, worldly sorrow is concerned with consequences, while godly sorrow is concerned with conviction of sin. If I steal, am I more grieved that I was caught or more upset that I did such a thing? Godly sorrow hates the action for it dishonors our maker, while worldly sorrow only worries about who noticed. Paul wants his reader to experience a godly sorrow that is unwilling to tolerate one’s own sin. In fact Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which we just finished, is marked by outrage over sin and its many forms. By God’s grace, many Corinthian Christians received Paul’s rebukes with grief over their wicked behavior and thus were changed. In response to Paul’s teaching here, I find it helpful, when dealing with personal sins to ask myself a few questions that reveal this distinction between godly and worldly sorrow: “What does God want me to change moving forward?” “How did I get here, and how can I leave?” “How does my sin reveal a comfort with being distant from God?” There are more questions that could be asked, but I think when we sin and feel guilty, it is crucial to assess if our disappointment is rooted in worldly or godly sorrow. This difference not only affects our maturation, but is the difference between life and death (2 Corinthians 7:10).