Broke relationships are a huge problem: People not getting along with each other. The hurtful things that take place. Accusations among families and friends. A diminished relationship that is now something less than it once was.
Compassion springs from God…“praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…” Compassion is rooted in the character of God himself. Because God himself is compassionate, because God shows us compassion, we can have the very same character, the same desire for reconciliation. V. 4: “…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We have seen comfort, we have experienced comfort…to be like God in the character of compassion is incredible…
Can non-Christians reconcile broken relationships? Can those who do not believe in God find a measure of restoration? Of course. Why? The same reason, God is a God of compassion and he loves people. I believe in common grace, grace that is extended to all without distinction even for those who do not recognize God. Life is grace, a baby is grace, rain is grace, a garden growing is grace, you don’t have to be a Christian to receive any of those things…restoration is grace, love is grace. Compassion springs from the character of God. In these next verses I see a couple of things (Read 2 Cor. 1:5-7).
If you are at odds with somebody, you want a win-win outcome. Either we both win or we both lose. How come when you get in a fight with somebody it usually feels like a competition? You curse the other person, figuratively, and often literally. The problem with swearing is not so much the words themselves, as it is the attitude that goes with the foul language: to curse somebody is to call down destruction on them so that you win and they lose. Paul wants nothing of it, this compassion that springs from God Almighty is a win-win attitude that Paul saw himself in God. In v. 10 Paul summarizes, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” Beautiful words of reconciliation: just as God works on my behalf to deliver me to life, so I will bring that same attitude to bear in our relationship. Restoring Broken Relationships is only possible if there is a commitment to bless those with whom you are estranged, to want the best, if there is to be any hope it can only happen if you want your “enemy” to win. We both win or we both lose.
Compassion means you see from the perspective of the other. How difficult that can be. You want a really good relationship in a marriage? When both are committed to seeing the world through the eyes of the one that they love. Do you want a really good relationship with your children?… parents? See through the eyes of the other. When you start seeing through the eyes of another, a whole world is opened up. A few weeks ago I had a funeral that was about 2-3 weeks in the planning. The wife was impersonal. I could not put my finger on the problem, because most people are more personable. She gave me nothing to go on that was personal in nature to know her husband or honor her husband. Finally, the graveside was over, and I breathed a sigh of relief figuring thinking I’d never understand. The wife walked away with her family to her car, then she remembered she had to talk to me about a detail. She came back. In those few moments the woman was changed. She was relaxed. She was talkative. She gave me more personal insights in that few moments than I’d had in 2 telephone conversations, a dozen e-mails, a memorial service and a reception. What was the difference? The funeral was over. Now she had buried her husband, it was a month long process, and her entire countenance changed because it was over. It came flooding to me in a moment to be able to see from her perspective.
In these introductory verses, Paul is saying to the Corinthian people, these former friends that are now angry with him, "I want the best for you, I want to see things from your side, just as God in Christ has had compassion on me, so I want the best for you, I want you to have peace and joy. I am not interested in winning the argument, I am not interested in being stubborn and digging in my heals so I can win." Isn’t it fascinating, even in the opening introduction of v. 1, Paul calls the Corinthians Saints, usually we use that word for people that are really good, really Holy. Even though these folks are rejecting Paul, even though they are at odds with him, he calls them saints. He sees them as beautiful people of God. Next time you are fighting with somebody, remember that God loves this person. Reconciliation begins by no longer seeing the problem as about yourself, wanting to save face, wanting to win, but it is more about the other person. Win-Win. Rooted in God and his compassion for you.
One last point: we are going to be looking at restoring broken relationships, clearly something Paul knows about, clearly something God knows about, clearly a great need. Suppose that reconciliation goes no further than having compassion for the other. Even if, in your human spirit, you have no hope for complete restoration, isn’t compassion a better way? Consider the alternatives: Depression…Anger….Running away…feeling sorry for yourself… continuous justification to explain your side…A constant fight…Jealousy…a gnawing away of your spirit. Suppose for a moment that you are right – a broken relationship is still life altering. Even if the other person refuses to reconcile, compassion is still the better way, because your life and your mind is transformed, and you are able to more easily let go of the hurts and the disappointments.
Restoring broken relationships begins with compassion: “…there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Compassion is birthed out of the character of God himself. Compassion means you want a win-win solution, and you want the best for the person who is now distanced from you. For the broken relationships in your life, may healing begin with a spirit of compassion for others, the same compassion we have seen ourselves in God the Father.