“When saying sorry isn’t enough…”

“Saying sorry isn’t really enough…” 

When I was younger, I was often on dishes duty with my twin brother.  (There are a lot of dishes after the evening meal in a household of ten people.)   We didn’t have modern electric ‘dishwashers’ but had to do them by hand.  I soon learnt that saying ‘sorry’ isn’t enough after allowing a second plate to fall out of my hands and smash on the floor.  My parents soon told me that plates were expensive, and I needed to be more careful in the way I dried the dishes so I wouldn’t drop any more plates or else it would cost me.  The same is true for Christian sorrow and restoration. 

Most Christians are quick to say ‘sorry’ and even admit that they fail and sometimes ‘drop the ball’ as far as living an upright life before the Lord is concerned.   But I wonder whether Christians are too quick to say ‘sorry’ before actually considering what that means for them going forward.   There is a difference between saying sorry and truly showing godly sorrow. The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that “‘godly’ sorrow brings about repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but wordily sorrow brings death” (2 Cor 7:10).   

It’s one thing to say sorry but it’s quite another thing to show a godly sorrow which brings repentance.  We often refer to the word ‘repentance’ meaning that we do a ‘u’ turn.   We no longer do things that led us to sin but now go in the opposite direction so that we will no longer commit the sin.   But doing a ‘u’ turn doesn’t happen in an instant, it takes time.  Just as it took time for me to learn a new way of drying dishes so that I wouldn’t drop more plates, so it takes time to change sinful habits and lifestyles so that we no longer sin.  

Equally problematic is when our desire to restore someone who has sinned before truly seeing the evidence of godly sorrow and repentance has occurred.  This desire to restore quickly, although noble in some ways, can be detrimental to the sinner’s physical, spiritual and mental welfare.  It can also be detrimental to the victim’s physical, spiritual and mental welfare, the church’s welfare, and worse still, bring the Lord’s name into disrepute within the church and the local community.   

Some good questions to ask in relation to this is whether there is evidence of godly sorrow and true repentance.  What has changed?  Is spiritual, fruitful living increasingly evident?   This doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven or been forgiven, but we are simply waiting to see the evidence of godly sorrow and true repentance and how that translates into fruitful living for the Lord going forward.  

Thankfully, we know when there is godly sorrow and repentance for sin there is forgiveness, salvation and no regret with God, for He knows the heart that truly trusts in Jesus for forgiveness and renewal.   As Christians, we also forgive when there is godly sorrow, however, for restoration to be credible, we also need to see the evidence of repentance with fruitful living going forward and that takes time as the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us.   

By all means, be sorry for your sin but that isn’t enough if it isn’t accompanied by a ‘godly’ sorrow which brings about repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. JZ.