COMPROMISE: AN AMERICAN VIRTUE
Compromise is a virtue that Americans love. As individuals we compromise every day, whether it’s choosing a restaurant to go to for lunch, or scheduling that meeting with our boss. This American virtue is even demonstrated in our system of government, which is based on the concept of compromise and negotiation. Unlike many other countries, America is governed without a monarch or dictator, and we can attribute that success, in part, to compromise.
Compromise is also a virtue that Christians love. Sometimes we are faced with worldly obligations that conflict with our spiritual ones, and we can employ compromise as a tool to help us meet both. For example, we might use compromise to reschedule a parent-teacher conference to a time other than Wednesday night, or to organize a wholesome alternative to prom, like many of our parents and youth have done here. Even esteemed Bible characters such as Daniel find virtuous and reasonable alternatives in order to serve God and meet other obligations.
On the other hand, compromise isn’t always a virtue. It can be one of Satan’s most insidious tools because it makes us feel like we’re doing good by compromising, even though we’re falling short of what God has commanded. For example, we might be tempted to miss that Bible study “just this once” in order to appease our worldly companions; but in doing so, we have merely justified our disobedience to God.
Nevertheless, we must be like Moses—uncompromising when it comes to our obedience to God.
Think back to when Moses asked Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go worship God in the wilderness. Even after several plagues had ravaged Egypt, Pharaoh still stubbornly refused to let them go. Finally, after the Egyptians had suffered a great deal, Pharaoh offered some compromises to Moses.
First, he offered to allow Israel to sacrifice in Egypt instead of the wilderness (Exodus 8:25-27). Many people might have been happy that Pharaoh relented even a little bit, but Moses refused to give in. God’s command was to go into the wilderness, not stay in Egypt:
Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the Lord our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he tells us.”
Second, Pharaoh offered to let only the men go (Exodus 10:8-11). Again, Moses declined the offer because God’s command was that all of Israel, regardless of age or gender, goes. Not even the animals were exempt from this command:
So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence.
Finally, after the plague of darkness, Pharaoh made one last compromise: all of Israel could go, but their animals must be left behind (Exodus 10:24-26). Even still, Moses chose to serve God fully as He had commanded:
Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.”
Moses couldn’t compromise because none of those solutions were in keeping with God’s original command. He chose to serve God to the fullest extent and Christians today must choose this kind of uncompromising obedience as well.
Today, the world offers us many compromises that are truly inadequate if we want to serve God. For example, we are taught in the Bible that we are to avoid drunkenness and drinking parties (I Pet 4:3), but our friends in the world would have us to believe that a reasonable compromise would be for us to attend those parties and just not participate in the drinking. A compromise like this might satisfy both you and your friend, but does it satisfy God?
The world also demands that we compromise more and more of our personal time without any concern that we meet our obligations for attending worship assemblies or spending time in personal Bible study. A compromise like this might satisfy your employers or schoolteachers, but does it satisfy God?
Even movie ratings are a tool to get us to compromise what we will and will not watch. For example, we may never consider watching a rated-R movie, but we might give a PG-13 movie carte blanche because it’s rated better. A compromise like this might satisfy your conscience, but does it satisfy God?
Ultimately, we should never compromise when it comes to our service to God. The allure of compromise is that it makes us feel like we’ve gained a victory when we’ve actually surrendered to Satan. Like Moses, we should serve God to the fullest extent we are able, and never compromise in our obedience to our LORD.