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Maintaining Godly Relationships thru Repentance - 2nd Corinthians 7:1-16

The Weekend, August 1 –

We come to the weekend and so this reading today covers both Saturday and Sunday.  We’re going to read 2 Corinthians 7:1-16.  It is a short chapter but has much to say to us today.  Please read the Scripture first and then come back so that we might look at it together, and thanks.

 

Relationships are at the heart of Paul’s letters.  He wrote to churches, and he wrote to individuals, but at the heart of his letters is the relationship he has with them – “dear friends” (7:1); “make room for us in your hearts” (7:2); “you have such a place in our hearts” (7:3); “I take great pride in you” (7:4) – all of these are the language of loving relationships.  To be sure, Paul has, at times, rebuked, corrected, and challenged them – a fatherly love.  Yet we know that no relationship is ever deep without openness, transparency, and clear communication that fosters understanding.   Again – that dratted chapter break stopped the flow of thought.  “Therefore, since we have these promises,” – What promises?  He had just written to them in 6:16 and 18: “...God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people...  And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (6:16-18). He addresses them as dear friends that they might see that God is the source of their relationship and – “Therefore since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (7:1).  The sign of the cross is both a vertical and a horizontal focus, and so is our relationship with God and each other.  Paul reminds us that friendships that are from God are pure and holy in respect to all that God is.

The horizontal is conditioned on the vertical.  When the vertical between God and us is pure and holy, the horizontal will take care of itself – “respect – making room in our hearts” (7:2); “sacrifice – we would live or die with you” (7:3); “honesty and encouraging – great frankness and great pride in you” (7:4). The words convey the Joy he speaks of at the end of 7:4 – “my joy knows no bounds.”  Paul had been honest with them from day one, and he knows that it hasn’t always been smooth, but he also knows that communication has served to bind them together through difficult times.  Growth is not always smooth, nor easy.  Every parent of a teenager knows that.  There are times of adjustments, times of holding back, times of blessing, and encouragement.  It’s a mixture of invested relationships that makes our lives blessed by others.

Now, after five chapters of material, Paul continues what he began to say in 2:12 -13, when he left Troas to go to Macedonia, hoping to find Titus – “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 Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me so that my joy was greater than ever.  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” (7:5-8). 
God comforts the downcast – that was Paul waiting for Titus to come with a report about where Paul and the church in Corinth’s relationship stood.  He had written to them in that first letter to deal with the immorality – but he didn’t know if they did. When Titus met up with Paul in Macedonia, he got the news he had hoped for.  Paul was grateful for their obedience to God’s word – but now there was a need to address the other side of this issue – he had repented, it was essential to restore him!

In the verses that follow, we learn much about the nature of true repentance.  The word repentance by itself is not a welcomed word in most churches today.  The confusion arises because of the misperception that repentance means condemnation or shame.  Paul helps us understand what it really is about – “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.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (7:9-10).
There is a dimension in repentance that is sorrow.  The contrast is between a “Godly sorrow” that leads to repentance and then on to restoration, and a “world sorrow” that is shallow, leading to bitterness, unreconciled relationships and life-long regret.  The difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow is that the former has a purpose of restoring, and the latter is selfishly directed and pointless.  The salvation Paul speaks of doesn’t necessarily mean the salvation of Christ.  It also means to save the relationship they have with Him.   

What then does true repentance look like?  “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” (7:11). The words are vivid: sorrow, earnestness, eagerness to clear, indignation, alarm (i.e., fear), getting things right again.  True repentance brings us back to restoration and reconciles us to both God and others.  Perhaps the final proof that all has become well is Paul’s statement of how delighted he was to see Titus’ happiness (7:13 – 16).

All is well...all is well.  Sometimes it takes a while for reconciliation to occur.  The relationship with the Corinthians was full of ups and downs.  In the end, all is well.  Paul had both truth and love at risk in this encounter.  Truth without love is brutal, and love without truth is worthless.  Does anyone enjoy confrontation?  No, but if there is love, there have to be times of raw honesty.  Conflict is not something we should ever enter into just to win the argument.  It’s not about winning; it’s about restoring. Shattered relationships are not limited to churches.  They are in marriages, homes, workplaces, and they can be repaired and restored through the wisdom of God and the perseverance of love.

 

Peace


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