“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was”(John 17:4-5).
The love of God determined that Christ depart the realm of glory to make Himself of no reputation. The result was redemption and a return to glory. It was done for our sakes. This was and is the supreme compromise. By following Jesus, we are clothed to reflect that great love. We do this by finding a meeting point, a compromise with our neighbors in the world and with our family in Christ.
We cannot compromise what God commanded nor can we compromise the truth He revealed. The commandments we obey to live, and the truth we learn for understanding and wisdom. However, there are many things we may compromise, and should compromise, according to need. These things concern the various cultures, societies, and times where the church is salted. Being a sanctified people does not mean to be out of sync with our neighbors over the kind of food we eat, the type of clothing we wear, or how we take care of the day to day affairs. It is proper that we become like others, so they can identify with us and we with them.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you(1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Obviously, the Lord does not want us to compromise morality for the sake of fitting in. There are places in the world where casual nudity is accepted. We cannot acquiesce for the sake of fitting in. The marijuana recreational culture, which is rapidly gaining acceptance, cannot be ours. The list of sins is long. Avoiding immorality is not a matter of setting ourselves up as judges. It is a matter of being subject to our Lord and King. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world”(John 12:46-47).
There are many neutral things, common ground we should have with our neighbors. When Paul was among the Jews he nested back into the culture of his people. When among the other nations, he adapted to fit in as much as possible. He referred to the weak and being as weak when among them. I don’t think this means he adopted the behavior of moral weakness. He followed the behavior of Christ —“meek and lowly in heart,”— thus negating aloofness toward the weak. He could understand the difficulties of weakness and was compassionate because of that understanding. Paul stated his underlying motivation; “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
Are there things we, as members of Christ and of one another, can compromise to work together in a better way? Certainly! Christ is the head of the body, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Similarly, Peter referred to each member as a living stone (1 Peter 2:5). Each member has neighboring stones. There are connections, strong joints or weak ones, according to the amount of love we apply. Love is the rule for changing things that might impede. We compromise by being longsuffering and forbearing, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”(Ephesians 4:3). Many of these impediments are not matters for withdrawal, battle grounds, or skirmishes. Perhaps we are a little selfish: lax in certain areas, too sensitive, a little pushy, a little too willing to discuss the faults of others, and the like. We are all children needing to learn. Because these are matters of our individual need for growth, we must discipline ourselves to the practice of love. Understanding can soften the edges of perceived offences so that we may sit down in harmony with each other. Words like love, forbearing, longsuffering, and understanding would have no meaning in this world without compromise. For it is compromise which causes us to set aside a matter of concern for something much better.
There is room for compromise in the assembly of the church. For example, there are pre-arranged times for meetings. Within those meetings, we should be following the scriptures: eating the Lord’s supper, singing, teaching, exhorting, reading, and praying. However, the time of day, the order of what is done, the amount of time spent on a given activity, these are all subject to compromise. This is from the Spirit of God, “wait for one another”(1 Corinthians 11:33). We need to agree on the optimum time for the whole body to meet and eat the Lord’s supper. Consideration for one another creates the compromise. This translates into all other facets of the assembly. The absence of compromise causes rigidity, and consideration for others becomes lost.
Can we compromise our individual habits of life? Surely there is plenty of room for that. Undoubtedly, many brethren compromise their morning sleep-in to be with the church. That is a sacrifice. It goes hand in hand with compromise. What about things we allow or disallow for ourselves? We have personal preferences that are neutral – whether we like a certain fragrance, a certain food, a certain style of dress, or recreational activity. Or maybe there are things which we personally feel are wrong, matters of conscience we have assumed or have been taught. Can we compromise our preferences or personal conscience for the sake of others? Yes!
“For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:2-4).
The Lord does not require us to alter our preferences or conscience on matters that are outside the covenant of grace. He does require us make room for one another on these matters. This takes flexibility or compromise to recognize that our personal allowances are not as important as our brother, or that our personal conscience is not enough to judge one who does not share in it. “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another”(Romans 14:19).
Surely there is plenty of room in our lives for compromise as we live in this world, and as we enjoy the fellowship of Christ among brethren.