People before plans… i.e. plans can be sacrificed, but people cannot. If your plans would do more harm than good, then change the plans! If the Lord is not glorified by continuing on, then do something different. When tension mounts, the situation changes, and plans have to be considered in light of the new situation. Consider a case study: An only child has plans to go to college. Six months before the day, his parents get a divorce. Should he put off college so that his mother will not be alone during the transition phase, or should he follow through with is plans? Obviously a lot more needs to be known, but you get the point that what is best for everyone involved is the priority as decisions are made. Plans can be sacrificed, but people cannot.
Here’s another case study I wrote 20 years ago: Joe planned on going to a retreat that was being sponsored by his church. A couple of weeks before the week long event, he happened to see a list of other participants. One of the names on the list was Bill, a person who Joe just did not get along with. In the past they had not agreed about much at all – they had “bad blood”. Joe decided to cancel out on his plans. You could justify either decision or come up with other alternatives. Was his motivation purely self-centered, was it to avoid a confrontation, or was it somehow to want the best for Bill?
I cannot tell you what to do in every situation. In my role as a counselor, a listening ear, I won’t make decisions for you unless you are planning to do something immoral or God dishonoring. But I will tell you what attitudes to work on and what priorities to base your decisions on. I will tell you to focus on the integrity of all people involved.
Let’s take a look at Paul’s explanation. Putting people before plans is a principle that applies in more than just restoring broken relationships. It’s the Christian way. Always act in sincerity, always do what you say you will do, always go the extra mile to fulfill your obligations, but there are times when the situation changes, and plans need to be changed. Paul’s motives for changing his plans were pure and his conscience was clear (see 2 Cor. 1:12-14). I circled the words “holiness” and “sincerity.” Both are important. A person can be sincere but still be wrong. Adding the idea of holiness is an added dimension. It may be tempting to try and set things right in a relationship out of an internal self-understanding of what is right and wrong, but Paul says that is not the best motivation. It’s out of holiness, or what is God honoring.
Paul is saying that plans were made, but now it is a different situation, so the original plan has to be considered once again. If I say I will do something and change my mind simply because a better opportunity came along, that is one thing, or if I’d rather sleep in, that is just laziness. In this case, the people at Corinth were no longer happy with Paul, and rather than being stubborn and saying I am coming anyway, he re-evaluates the wisdom of continuing on with the same plan. When relationships are strained, that may be a game changer in the plans. The old patterns may no longer be possible.
The obvious answer in 1:17 is “of course not.” He is not speaking out of two sides of his mouth, but he is under the banner of God and the situation has changed. We are to conduct ourselves sincerely, but not woodenly. The principle of putting people first before plans means that there are times I will change my plans because somebody is hurting. Or maybe I don’t do something because it would cause greater hurt.
2 Cor. 1:18-19 is not vacillation, but a display of God’s character. The answer is not Yes and No, it is Yes in Christ. Paul’s purpose is to glorify God (2 Cor. 1:20). The word “Amen” is powerful. "Amen" means to make decisions with confidence knowing you are seeking to honor the Lord regardless of the situation: So be it God, this is my understanding of what is good and pleasing to you. This is my meager attempt to make decisions that are honoring to you. How often we make decisions or change our minds and we get nervous, we second guess, we wonder if we did the right thing. “Amen” is a bold statement of confidence. He is saying to the people at Corinth, I had plans to visit you, the situation changed, so I am responding by doing something different, and I say, ‘Amen,’ so be it Lord Jesus. This is confidence in Christ. If you are in a tense situation, reconsider your plans, your patterns, putting people first, and show some spine by saying “Amen.” And when you say “Amen” you are saying you are laying the decision before God. Listen to the next few very powerful verses: Read 1:21-2:1. Paul did not change his plans lightly, but he changed the plans based on God’s character of what would be most pleasing to the Lord. Paul put the Corinthians first, because that honors God.
Do you remember the old acronym, WWJD. I was never quite comfortable with that exact question because too often it seemed to me Jesus would never be in the same position that we find ourselves. I rewrote the acronym a little bit: WWBG2G ("What would bring glory to God") (not very memorable). If we find ourselves in a tense relationship, a broken relationship, everything needs to be reevaluated, because the situation is now different. As you evaluate your commitments, a major part of the decision is What would bring Glory to God? WWBG2G? This is not a pie in the sky idea, but a practical question that has a direct bearing on our decisions. It takes the decision out of the realm of self serving. It takes the decision away from impure motives. When you ask the question, WWBG2G, you are not asking what would make you happy, you would not be asking about what would enhance your reputation the most… it is a great question…
A major sidenote to this scripture. There is something even more powerful going on in this scripture. 20-22 is one of the great expressions of the Triune nature of God. Underline God, Christ, and Spirit. As Paul speaks about restoring a broken relationship with the Corinthians, he puts it squarely in an expression of the Trinity. Paul wants a healthy relationship with the Corinthians, and out floods one of the great Trinitarian expressions of God. You can hear the confidence, the worship, the praise. Suddenly a changed plan seems insignificant – the Corinthians were trying to belittle Paul by telling him he was inconsistent, and Paul responds by saying, NO, it is for the glory of God, the Amen of Christ, the stamp of approval by the Holy Spirit – a triplicate/Trinitarian affirmation. When you are in a tense situation, a broken relationship, you have an opportunity to honor the Lord by bringing glory to him in the decisions you make and how you conduct yourself. The people are more important than the plans, and it’s all about God’s character and God's priorities.
How do you restore a broken relationship: Put people before plans. People are the priority. It’s all in how you define your purpose, your mission. When you get it straight in your mind what is most important, then everything you do, everything you plan is put through that filter. As you consider a response, it is easy to lament that situation, to get caught up in the brokenness of it all. Come at the entire problemfrom a different angle and ask, “What would bring Glory to God.” And when you respond from that angle, God will give you a strength and a confidence to be able to say, “Amen.” There is no reason to keep revisiting your decisions, to keep lamenting that which you can do nothing about. Put your broken relationships before the Lord, put people first as you seek to glorify God, say Amen to Christ with confidence, and the Spirit will put a stamp of approval on your heart.