Defining true meaning of Godly sorrow

Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2016

By Michael Brooks
Brooks is a pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church and adjunct instructor at Jefferson State Community College.

Hollywood actress, Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was also Miss Hungary 1936, offered some advice for Valentine’s Day: “Marry for love. Keep marrying ‘til you find it.” Accordingly she’s been married nine times! She’s obviously had some troubled relationships.

The apostle Paul had a troubled relationship with the Corinthian church. He founded the church, along with his friends Aquila and Priscilla, but critics arose to poison the relationship. They said he wasn’t a genuine apostle since he wasn’t in the original band of 12, and they insisted he was only after their money. This trouble relationship caused Paul to write a stern letter to them — he called it a “painful letter.” He defended his calling and chastised them for daring to criticize a man of God so unjustly.

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Paul referenced this painful letter in 2 Corinthians 7 telling the church it made them sorry, and he was glad (vs. 8-9)! He rejoiced that their sorrow brought repentance and a changed life. Then he explained that their sorrow was “godly sorrow” as opposed to “worldly sorrow” (v. 10).

Worldly sorrow means that one gets caught with hands in the cookie jar, regrets to be so exposed but does not change one’s lifestyle. We’ve seen this often in the lives of celebrities who are scorned, allegedly renounce their wrong but really don’t forsake it.

I think of one political leader who put together a support group of three leaders to hold him accountable. I met one of these men at a conference and talked with him about this work for a few minutes. But by all accounts, this political leader never left his deviant lifestyle.

In contrast, godly sorrow leads to genuine repentance and a changed life. Charles Colson, a tough-talking ex-Marine, was known as President Nixon’s hatchet man. Colson reportedly said he’d run over his own grandmother if it helped the president. For his Watergate-related crimes, he spent six months in the federal prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.

During this time Colson found Christ and wrote about his experiences in his book, “Born Again.”

The critics said he was only sorry he’d been incarcerated and doubted his commitment. But Colson proved his sincerity by going back to prison, time and again, telling inmates about the love of God.

Prison Fellowship counters recidivism — the fact that the majority of inmates return to prison. The organization teaches faith, honor and character so that inmates aren’t just punished, but rehabilitated. President George W. Bush awarded Colson the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008.

Colson went to prison for one president and was honored by another. His godly sorrow brought repentance and a change of life.