2 Corinthians 7:8-11: “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—9 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. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 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.”
The apostle Paul founded the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey. These were people he knew and did life with during his stay. After his departure, he wrote letters to the fellow believers in Corinth to encourage, teach, identify problems within the church and offer godly solutions.
In these passages, Paul is referring to something we are familiar with but are often not fond of: admonishment—better known as constructive criticism.
First, we see that constructive criticism wasn’t an easy task, even for an apostle and yet, Paul did not shy away from it. Secondly, though he knew his rebuke would cause sorrow (godly guilt), Paul’s motivation was to encourage godly change and growth which built character. He was not interested in causing sorrow without an inspiration for a change in behavior. Many are merely sorry for the effects of their sin or for being caught (worldly sorrow). This is not what Paul was after. He desired godly sorrow—a sorrow produced by the Holy Spirit that leads a person to make things right with God through confession (see 1 John 1:9), repentance (turning from sin to God’s ways), and when called for, to make things right with other’s who may have been hurt by our sin.
Whether we are on the receiving or administering end of a rebuke, our attitude and goal should model Paul’s: godly sorrow leading to repentance.
What was your attitude the last time someone brought a fault/sin to your attention? In what ways, can you improve your approach when admonishing a fellow believer?