Thursday, October 8, 2020

A Call for Courage in a World of Compromise

Certainly, in the realm of social and political discourse, compromise can be helpful, even constructive. Compromise lubricates the political machinery of secular government. The art of compromise is the key to successful negotiations in business. Even in marriage, small compromises are often necessary for a healthy relationship.

But when it comes to biblical issues, moral principles, theological truth, and other spiritual absolutes, compromise is never appropriate.

The church, caught up in the pragmatism of our age, has lost sight of that reality. In some evangelical circles, compromise has been embraced as a tool for church growth, a platform for unity, and even a test of spirituality. Take an uncompromising stance on almost any doctrinal or biblical issue and a chorus of voices will call you obstinate, unkind, heartless, contentious, or unloving, no matter how irenically you present your argument.

Unfortunately, it is no longer politically correct to deal with biblical issues in a polemic fashion. Those who dare to take an unpopular stand, declare truth in a definitive way, or, worst of all, express disagreement with someone else’s teaching will inevitably be scolded. Compromise has become a virtue while devotion to truth has become offensive.

There is even a growing movement in evangelicalism openly advocating compromise with the world. People won’t come to hear the Gospel proclaimed? Give them something they want. Put on a show. Entertain them. Avoid sensitive subjects like sin and damnation. Accommodate their worldly desires and fleshly lusts. Slip in the Gospel in small, diluted doses.

That is the conventional wisdom in evangelicalism, but it is compromise. James called it spiritual adultery (James 4:4 NASB): “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

The modern canonization of compromise represents a detour down a dead-end alley. Both Scripture and church history reveal the danger of compromise. Those whom God uses are invariably men and women who swim against the tide. They hold strong convictions with great courage and refuse to compromise in the face of incredible opposition.

David stubbornly refused to tremble before Goliath; he saw him as an affront to God. While all Israel cowered in fear, David stood alone before the enemy.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all courageously refused the easy path of compromise. It would have cost them their lives if God had not sovereignly intervened. Yet they never wavered.

It is interesting to speculate what the church would be like today if Martin Luther had been prone to compromise. The pressure was heavy on him to tone down his teaching and stop poking his finger in the eye of the papacy. Even many of his friends and supporters urged Luther to come to terms with Rome for the sake of harmony. Luther prayed earnestly that his teaching would not be divisive. When he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door, the last thing he wanted to do was split the church.

Yet sometimes division is fitting, even healthy, for the church. Especially in times like Luther’s—and like ours—when the visible church seems full of counterfeit Christians, it is right for the true people of God to declare themselves. There is no room for compromise. Second Corinthians 6:14–17 (NASB) isn’t speaking only of marriage when it says:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord.”