Friendship - to have a friend who lets me say and do whatever I want with no consequence. One
who loves me even when I chose to enter into threatening situations.
I'm not sure the above definition of 'friendship' would pass muster in the church. It seems to be thriving outside the church however.
Accountability - a relationship built upon love, truth, grace, repentance, and forgiveness
In this morning's scripture reading I ran across the apostle Paul writing a sideways apology to the church in Corinth. He tells them he doesn't really regret his harsh words to them but then he says he does regret it a little. The letter of 1 Corinthians is filled with corrective rebuke from Paul to the church. Here in the second letter, Paul is seeing fruit from his loving admonishment of the church. Church folk read his first letter, internalized the message, and the Holy Spirit convicted them to repent.
"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 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. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10, NIV)
A life changed by remorse is always going to show evidence of repentance. A life that is spinning out of control will usually exhibit signs of pride and ambivilence to correction.
The three verses above reflect a unifying strand for believers in Jesus. Godly sorrow fills our hearts and reveals to us the distance our sin has created between God and us. We grieve the distance and know we need Jesus to draw us back into close fellowship with God. Submissive postures are the norm in people stricken with godly sorrow. We bend to God and seek forgiveness and mercy.
Worldly sorrow can often be seen in an unrepentant person who has been caught doing something vile. They grieve not because their heart is separated from God but moreso because they were caught.
Defensive postures can be seen in one who is overcome with worldly sorrow. Denial and celebrations of the vile act are often witnessed.
As we walk away from 2 Corinthians 7, we see the value of friendship and know our friends will (should) call us out when they see misguided behaviors in us. The accountability in the relationship continues to allow love to guide but correction to bring us to a place of godly sorrow.
Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, truth, and life."
When we speak truth into the lives of our family and friends, we are loving them with the greatest love one can offer. Our words of admonition might actually save them from harm or worse still eternal lostness.
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is,
Christ." (Ephesians 4:15, NIV)