A particular passage stood out to me in my Bible reading last week. It is found here in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.
8 Even though my letter hurt you, I don’t regret it. Well—I did regret it just a bit because I see that that letter made you sad, though only for a short time. 9 Now I’m glad—not because you were sad but because you were made sad enough to change your hearts and lives. You felt godly sadness so that no one was harmed by us in any way. 10 Godly sadness produces a changed heart and life that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but sorrow under the influence of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7)
Paul sent a letter that at first he regrets sending. I wonder if Paul’s letter was similar to emails or texts we might look back on and wish we had not sent. (Sorry, this does not give us permission to send out every letter, email or text we might feel like sending.)
Paul was apparently pointing out a wrong that someone did, presumably to him, that hurt his relationship with the Corinthian church.
12 So although I wrote to you, it wasn’t for the sake of the one who did wrong, or for the sake of the one who was wronged, but to show you your own enthusiasm for us in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 7)
His letter was calling out a wrong that was done. His letter to them does initially seem to trouble them. It causes them to grieve. Fortunately, it proves to be grief that brings about change.
Eugene Peterson in The Message states it this way:
10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. (2 Corinthians 7).
Here during the Christmas season we do not think of sorrow or grief as a gift. I do not recommend this year sending nasty letters out instead of nice Christmas cards. None of us like to have a wrong pointed out to us. It is not fun. It can hurt. We might have to go back and apologize. There may be more that we have to do to fix the situation or to make things right.
However, sorrow, grief from knowing that we have done wrong, can be a gift.As Paul writes, “ Godly sadness produces a changed heart and life that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets.” Now that does sound like a nice present.
(Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited above from Common English Bible Copyright © 2011)