I have been working on an OT survey curriculum that I will be teaching to middle school kids in the fall. This morning I have been wrestling through Genesis 16 and the story of Sarai and Hagar. As I am trying to figure out how to take something 4000 years old and make it real to the kids, I think about the big issue of Christianity borrowing ideas from the culture. I hope to discuss this in detail.
But something else has been fermenting in the back of my mind this morning. While the word regret does not show up in the text, it seems that plenty of it shows up in Sarai’s heart. Why is it that we only regret after sinning? Couldn’t we save ourselves some trouble if the regret emotion would just kick in a little sooner? I know conviction can set in pre-sin. I praise God for that. But if we could just feel the regret, sense the agony of our poor choices before we make them…
As these thoughts were ruminating, 2 Corinthians 7 came to mind. The context is sorrow over sin:
For 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.
My whole perspective changed. I do not want to downplay sin—Sarai’s or mine or the kids—but I am floored at God’s hand in the post sin aspect of our lives. The role of the Holy Spirit in the process is restoration not condemnation. Notice the pattern: sin, conviction, sorrow, repentance, life! The other option is a downward spiral that leads to death. Regret that grows and festers and buries itself deep in the heart does not come from God. The Holy Spirit moves the believer back into relationship with God not away from him in self pity and anguish.
But make no mistake, God does take sin seriously. That is why we have His Word. It teaches and informs and encourages us to walk in love by the Holy Spirit and not according to the flesh. It challenges us to think about how we think. It admonishes us to think correctly as wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions. I think that Sarai and Abram knew that this “Hagar solution” was a shortcut that God did not intend. We still experience the consequences of this choice today. Sin is deadly.
Thankfully, He also takes His relationship with us seriously. He desires reconciliation. It may be that when I said earlier that I wish the regret emotion would kick in a little earlier, that what I am describing is Biblical sorrow. I am grateful for His constant ministry in my life of conforming me to the image of His Son. I am thankful for the concept of repentance. So while sometimes I wish I would “feel” a little more acutely the consequences of my poor choices before I make them, words cannot express the joy and comfort of the Holy Spirit in my life—pre and post-sin.
Can you distinguish between regret leading to death and sorrow leading to life?