Looking for Repentance

(So, I’d planned to be blogging much more regularly here recently, but I find the “too busy” excuse right there in my back pocket all the time. So trying to jump back in…)

What’s the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow? I certainly get that in the end, one leads to life and one leads to death. But what do they look like in process?

I find myself struggling with that question in a very practical way today. A brother has been approached. Two or three others have gone along. The church of Jesus has made the call to repentance. After some waiting, Joe (made up name so that I don’t have to type “the person” over and over again) finally says he wants to return, to repent. Except not in those words. And still with a lot of anger and defensiveness.

Not only that, but part of Joe’s call to repentance has been about ongoing lies and deceit. Is this another time of lies and deceit? Is this part of the long con, just trying to restore his own kingdom but using the church to do it? Or is this is a godly sorrow, a conflicted repentance that is tainted with sin but finds it’s source in God the Spirit?

Tonight I’m confounded because I don’t know. I have no desire to turn away a brother who is coming back into the fold. But I also have no desire to let a wolf in either. And I don’t know how to tell which is which. Joe could be gaming. Or he could be fighting. I didn’t expect to be facing this–I honestly didn’t really believe Joe would ever try to come back. And even if he did, I figured any true repentance would be clear and obvious.

It’s not. I’m trying to reach across culture and life situation to assess what does repentance look like for this particular person. I really don’t think it looks like this, but I (with the church) don’t want to refuse the Keys to a broken man.

 

I think part of my fear is that I don’t at all believe it’s real repentance–a godly sorrow–but I’m afraid how it’ll make me look to reject someone who’s almost saying all the right things. Is godly sorrow still angry and prideful? Is godly sorrow full of excuses and defenses? Is godly sorrow dismissive and closed? Is godly sorrow completely devoid of Jesus?

It’s hard to see how that could be the case. Joe’s response certainly doesn’t look like this: “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.”