When Alejandro Avila was convicted of kidnapping and murdering five-year-old Samantha Runnion, her mother, Erin spoke at his sentencing. In part, she told him: “You have absolutely no concept of how heinous, how egregious your crimes are…But you just don’t care…our lives were shattered…And you should be sorry…Not sorry you got caught; not sorry your wasted life will be taken…but sorry that you took a life, the life of a very special little girl.”
It is a sad reality that, far too often, people are sorry for getting caught, but not sorry for the wrong they have done. Believers are not immune to this callousness either. We have personally witnessed this when Christians gossip, lie, destroy reputations, steal, cause church splits, and more. The Apostle Paul saw it in his day too. He warned the saints at Corinth, “…when I come again…I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (II Corinthians 12:21). This defiant practice of ongoing sin must break the heart of God. Instead, He desires the response of Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Thankfully, this is exactly how the sinning saint, described in I Corinthians 5, reacted when rebuked and disciplined by the church. He had “…sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner…For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation [deliverance from sinful practices] not to be repented of…what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves…what vehement desire [to do right]…in all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (II Corinthians 7:9-11). He allowed his heart to be broken over his wrongdoing, and sought to genuinely correct his behavior.
Dear believer, how do you respond when you know you have sinned or wronged someone else? Do you defiantly rationalize it, ignore it, excuse it, continue in it, or do you demonstrate the kind of godly sorrow described above? Are you only sorry if you get caught and suffer consequences, or are you sorry because your conduct was wrong, hurtful, and offensive to the Lord? May we allow the Lord to speak to our hearts about developing a pattern of true godly sorrow.
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