After writing the severe letter to the Corinthians that was full of rebuke, Paul was troubled, especially when his companion Titus was held up in the Achaia province. Upon successful reunion with his protege, Paul finally found peace as Titus recounted the kindness that was shown to him by the Corinthians.
Hearing reports that the church was showing signs of repentance and that they even spoke fondly about Paul, made him realise the effect that his letter had on the believers in Corinth. While Paul was initially apprehensive and even fearful of how his severe letter would have been received, seeing the positive impact that it had on the church gave him a sense of accomplishment as he proceeded to make further requests to his audience.
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.2 Corinthians 7:2 (NIV)
Seeing the change in the hearts of the Corinthian people, Paul decided to make another plea to them regarding their commitment. Paul was about to broach the topic of offerings that the church had promised to collect. But like any other leader, he first wanted to congratulate the church on the great strides they had made after his severe letter.
I have spoken to you with great frankness; 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, we 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 Titus2 Corinthians 7:4-6 (NIV)
Paul was constantly thinking about Titus and how he was being treated by the people of Corinth after his painful visit the last time he was there. To add to the awkwardness, Paul had lambasted them over their shortcomings and was now fearing that the door to the hearts of the congregation in Corinth was permanently closed. He was having second thoughts in his mind about the words he had used till the time Titus returned with a favourable report. It is then that Paul realised that it was not he but God using the harsh words in his letter to drive change in the hearts of the Corinthians.
Oftentimes, we execute the will of God but are fretted till we witness a favourable outcome. Our faith in God is helping us accomplish His will but we are then unable to bear the stress of the consequences of our actions. The people we have offended (like in Paul’s case), the friendships we have had to let go or the people we will miss. In all these scenarios our love for God and accomplishing His will is superseded by the love for our fellow beings.
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.2 Corinthians 7:8-9 (NIV)
More than being sorrowful, God wants us to repent and come to Him for forgiveness. Unlike worldly sorrow which is inflicted on us by the people of this world, Godly sorrow is not foisted on us by God. He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world two thousand years ago. It is when we realise that we do not deserve such grace is when we will be sorrowful and change our ways with His help. The Corinthians realised that they had taken that Grace lightly and were sorrowful and wanted a change in themselves just as God had intended when he made that Ultimate Sacrifice.
Instead of being sorrowful, people go in the other direction and get offended by God’s rebuke. So rather than coming closer to God, they are driven away from Him.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
People often have this notion that Christian life is a sorrowful life. They believe that if one has chosen to walk on the path of God, then they will encounter all the difficulties of this life. Godly sorrow is not the sorrow that is destined to come our way should we walk with Christ, but it is the sorrow that comes from the realisation that we do not deserve the love that God has shown to us. Repentance can only occur if we accept our shortcomings but the world wants us to think that we are perfect and do not need a Saviour.
Confidence in People
I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.2 Corinthians 7:16 (NIV)
In the next section of his letter, Paul is about to ask the Corinthians to be generous in their donations and that he would be sending Titus soon for the collections. I think it is human nature for us to talk up the person from whom we are about to ask a favour. Though Paul was not asking the favour for himself but for the downtrodden communities that needed financial support. Paul is like a local pastor who sometimes has to thread the needle between addressing the misconduct of their audience and commending them for the betterment of the larger community.
Our lives need not be a compromise but we must believe that God has placed us in a congregation to shine his light on the people who have been blinded by the prince of this world. The people who want to grow closer to God will not be deterred by honest rebuke but will see it as an opportunity to correct their paths. The people who are interested only in fanfare will be offended by the slightest criticism as their hearts do not thirst for the Living Water. So let us not worry about compromising with this world and be true to the message that God has sent us to deliver.
- 7:6 – What does it say about Paul that he was comforted by something as trivial as Titus coming to him?
- 7:8- Does God intend us to be sorrowful?
- 7:10 – What does Godly Sorrow mean?
- 7:16 – Does Paul have complete confidence in Corinthians or is he just stroking their egos?