When was the last time someone of faith said to you – “You really need to compromise more often brother.” It’s probably never happened.
I am sometimes accused of “compromising.” Usually the person means that I didn’t speak or act in a manner that upheld their standard of what i should have said or done. Fair enough. For sure there are things we should never waiver on. But those things have become less and less for me as I grow older and (I think) closer to God. Jesus said in John 6:29 that the “work of God is to believe in the one he has sent.” God’s work is believing in Jesus. I won’t compromise on that. But….believe what? How? And where?
Paul said in First Corinthians 2:2 that he has “resolved to know nothing but the crucified Christ.” Imagine if we knew NOTHING but Christ. Just Jesus. That’s either not very much, or everything, depends how you look at it.
Some of the problem in Washington DC is that neither side is willing to compromise on the non-essentials. They are acting like everything is an essential. I see Christians doing that a lot. Our church likes to take communion every Sunday. No matter if there’s a children’s play or if it’s Easter or whatever – we take communion. They won’t compromise that non-essential so it causes confusion for some. I grew up in a church system that was sure you had to speak in other tongues to have the Holy Spirit and we would never compromise that. Another non-essential. Think of most of our disagreements, they’re over things that may, in fact, be important – but are they essential?
What about our Muslim neighbors? What can we compromise with them in order to win their friendship and even their hearts? Or the Mormons who appear at your door once in a while. They were at my neighbors yesterday and I stopped on my way out of the house (I couldn’t resist) and told them to “remember to focus on the guy on your badge – you know, Jesus Christ.” They laughed, agreed and I drove off.
When I bowed and prayed in the Grand Mosque at Mecca, I compromised. I don’t normally pray in a mosque or do the rituals that Muslims do. I didn’t even feel very comfortable doing it – mostly just embarrassed, cause I didn’t really know what I was doing. It wasn’t “idolatry” as some have suggested as there was no “idol” to bow to. I know who I was praying to and why I was praying – and I didn’t judge the hearts of those million plus Muslims praying around me. I know God hears anyone who cries out to him with a genuine desire to be heard – I assume at least some of them were doing that (I mean, seriously, do we think that in any given church on a Sunday morning that when the preacher says “bow your heads with me and let’s pray” that everyone there is actually connecting with God?).
I also compromise when I talk to people about faith. I don’t tell them everything I know. When I meet someone who has a different philosophy of life than I do – political or religious or some other “orientation” – I don’t begin by telling him why he’s wrong and I’m right. While all truth is true, not all truth is helpful all the time. When you first meet me and notice I’m overweight, you could point that out – pointing to my belly and saying “Wow, you’re fat.” While that would be true, it wouldn’t be that helpful (actually maybe it would)!
I don’t want to be a wishy-washy believer any more than you do. James says that we should not be tossed around like a small boat on the ocean by every new wind of doctrine. I agree. One way to NOT be tossed around, is to have the essentials down. Know in whom you trust.
I’m about finished reading Eric Metaxas’ excellent book on the life of Bonhoeffer, who has long been one of my heroes. He gives an incredible story of Bonhoeffer and his close friend Bethge in a public place when it’s announced the German Nazi forces have taken over France. Everyone jumps up yelling and screaming and giving the Heil Hitler sign. Bonhoeffer joins them. His friend is horrified and still in his chair. He asked Bonhoeffer, who was a committed anti-Hitler activist, “What are you doing my friend?” Bonhoeffer’s looked down at Bethge and said “Are you crazy man? Raise your arm. We’ll have to run risks for many different things, but this silly salute is not one of them.”
Bonhoeffer had bigger fish to fry than getting thrown in jail for not raising his hand at the “right” time. He compromised. He was wise. Shrewd. For the sake of a higher calling.
Know when to stand and know when to stay in your chair.