Community Without Regret

There's a small part of 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about sorrow. This man of conviction, brokenness and joy had written a third letter to the church in Corinth. It's a lost letter. We don't know what it said, but we know it was a letter of tears. He wept as he wrote it and they wept as they read it. Whatever he addressed - it wounded them. In all honesty,  it's possible that Paul's accusation was not true. There was some kind of misunderstanding. Or it could have been that Paul's exposure hit a hidden vein of sin within their community that not many knew about.

But these people were a people of repentance. They didn't rage against Paul and his truth. They didn't rise to defend themselves, justifying their behavior. They sat in it, listened to the grief and sorrow rising in their own hearts, and then they responded.

These people of Corinth are the reason we own these words...

"Yet now I am happy, not because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in ay way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 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."

We know this, don't we. We've lived this. We know the injustice of being accused. We know the sorrow of conflict within deep community. We know the isolation, the fear, the anger that comes from misunderstanding. We also know what it feels like to be exposed for a sin we didn't commit. There is a powerful desire to DEFEND. But if we don't sit quietly, and sorrowfully, in repentance first we will only walk away with regret. Humans are a fiery species. We flare and push back when pushed against. We demand and justify and right our wrongs with force. We're known for it. We live in regret of it.

Can we consider the possibility that, sometimes, God allows accusation for our good? Is it possible that someone rubbing up against our tender hearts is often for our benefit? Maybe Godly sorrow actually heals us - leaving no regret. Maybe earned humility rescues us from our nature, our old ways. Maybe the conflict within community is for our GOOD, not for our destruction?

If these words feel like arrows, not like salve, maybe your wound is fresh, friend. I've suffered under the grief of that wound too. I've lived years of my life being painted as something I'm not. I've been accused of things that were never even in my heart. I've been rejected by community for assumed sin. I get it. I know the sting of that kind of betrayal.

I'm sorry it's been done to you. I'm sorry for the rejection and loneliness that sprang from careless words. I'm sorry that sometimes leaders speak before knowing the entire story. I'm sorry for the other human beings who wounded you.

Maybe your healing lies in Godly sorrow. The kind that leaves no regret, but clears you of accusation. Maybe healing lies in humility, in an earnest, eager clearing of your name. It's clear that the church in Corinth didn't let it slide. They didn't stay silent. They just didn't get nasty. They received justice. They proved themselves innocent. They just didn't produce regret with their words or actions.

Paul said this, "So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged."

Community is overflowing with people who make mistakes, who get offended, who misunderstand, who accuse and who wound. It always will be. Community is flawed. But if Jesus is rooted in the center of community, healing is always available. It takes a lot to be a person of humility. It takes a lot to not flare and wound in return. It takes a lot to stick it out when you are battered and frustrated by someone else's words.

If reconciliation isn't possible, don't let it be because of you. If it is possible, let it happen through your availability.

Paul drew a boundary with the church. The church drew a boundary with Paul. Both settled into healthy community - where both sorrow and joy reside. This is what gospel living looks like, friends.

Press in, Light Bearers. Community can get rough. Do you live a story of accusation and reconciliation? If you do, we need to hear it. We need to be reminded of hope and healing. We need to be encouraged. All of us.

*June 2013