The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
–2 Corinthians 7:10
Before we are reconciled to somebody, we want to know that our offender has changed. We want to know that we are not going to become victims again. We are going to require rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation is not the same as sorrow. There are a lot of people who are sorry for the consequences of what they have done. I have talked to wives who separated from their adulterous husbands, and they say to me, “Ever since I moved out my husband is so sorry, and he is begging me to come back. Do you think I ought to move back in?” I have said to them, “Do you really think he is repentant, or is he just sorry he doesn’t have anybody to wash his clothes, cook his meals, and sleep in his bed?” There is a difference between sorrow and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation means being sorry enough to change your behavior. Paul makes that distinction in 2 Corinthians 7:10 when he said, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” There is a worldly sorrow that goes nowhere positive. But a godly sorrow leads to repentance and produces no regret. Before we rebuild a relationship with that adulterous mate, that abusive boss, or that lying friend, we want to see some evidence of rehabilitation.
Reconciliation also requires a rebuilding of trust. A marriage can be broken in a few moments of adulterous pleasure, but it may take years to rebuild trust in that relationship. In Galatians 6:1 Paul described how to handle fellow Christians who are ambushed by sin. He said, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” If a Christian is overtaken by a sin and that sin is against you, then you don’t need to be the one to try to rehabilitate him. Other Christians need to work with him toward rehabilitation. In Galatians 6:1, the word “restore” refers to the mending of a broken bone. A fallen Christian is like somebody who has broken a bone. Think about this: If you break your arm, what does it take for that arm to heal? You have to put it in the right setting, in a cast. And it takes time for that arm to heal. It is the same way with a Christian who has been caught up in sin. If he is going to be rehabilitated, then he must place himself in the right setting, with other Christians who are helping him spiritually heal. And it also takes time. Don’t expect a rebuilding of trust to happen overnight.
Now, if you are the wrongdoer, don’t be surprised when other people demand the same things from you before they reconcile with you. If somebody has been hurt by you, then don’t be surprised if they demand repentance, rehabilitation, restitution, and a rebuilding of trust before they reconcile the relationship.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving People You Never Want to Eat Lunch with Again” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.