The Art of Compromise

I know that "compromise" is a naughty word for some people. But the reality is that compromise is necessary to move some things forward. We USED to see this in politics--Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neal meeting behind closed doors to find some resolution to a problem, some common ground on a piece of legislation that would move the country forward. There used to be such a thing as statesmen who believed in principle over party, and that which was best for the country must take priority over ideology. But today no one is willing to compromise. The cry is: "Don't cave in; hold the party line!" The result is stalemate and gridlock.

The truth is that the refusal to compromise is many times not a matter of principle but of pride. It is selfishness--or self-preservation--pure and simple. Very sadly today we see this refusal to compromise for the sake of the cause happening where it should never be seen--in the church of Jesus Christ. 

Do not misunderstand me. We must NEVER compromise on truth. Truth is not for sale! Some things are non-negotiable--such as salvation through faith in Jesus only. But matters of interpretation, tradition, and preference are NOT truth. Neither are certain styles of preaching and music--and even political affiliation. 

There is a brand of compromise that is actually supported by Scripture. We must be willing to bend on our traditions and preferences in order to advance the Good News of Jesus. 

The early church faced a crisis. Had they not compromised it would have split the church and stymied the advance of the Gospel. Peter had preached to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house. Many placed their faith in Jesus and were baptized. Paul and Barnabas preached to the Gentiles and many were turning to faith in Christ. But then some men from Judea came to Antioch and began preaching a different message. They preached that unless a person is circumcised they could not be saved. Paul and Barnabas debated hotly with these men. The church sent them to Jerusalem to ask the apostles. The debate continued in Jerusalem. Then Peter stood and gave testimony of his vision (Acts 10:9-16) and preaching in the home of Cornelius the Gentile (Acts 10:34-43). I imagine this did little to change anyone's mind. But then Peter quoted Scripture (Amos 9:11-12) and the matter was settled. For the early church the final authority was not reason or opinion or preference or tradition... it was Scripture! My appeal is that we would get back to this--and when strong men disagree they would say, "But what is the word of the Lord?"--and when they find that word that would be the end of the debate.  

Would to God we had such people today, people who seek the mind of the Lord, people who know Scripture well enough to say "Thus saith the Lord"--and those who are humble enough to listen!