Compromise or Conviction?

With all that is going on our nation’s capitol these days its hard not hear something about whether to stand firm, based on conviction or be willing to compromise.  To be sure, both sides of the political spectrum are trying to look as if they are the ones being reasonable and it is their opponents who are being overly rigid and uncompromising.  In Nehemiah, chapter six, we find a similar scenario playing out between Nehemiah and those attempting to thwart the rebuilding of the protective walls and gates around Jerusalem.  On no less than four occasions, the enemies of Judah tried to set a meeting with Nehemiah to discuss their differences, claiming they just wanted negotiate a settlement.  This was of course before the gates had been set and entry into Jerusalem restricted.  Each time Nehemiah refused, knowing that their real intent was to draw him out into the open and murder him.  The fifth time, Judah’s enemies tried a different but equally deceptive plan.  They hired a false prophet to spread the word, in God’s name presumably, that Nehemiah would be killed on a specific night in order to frighten him into leaving the city and go into hiding. No level of intimidation or threats would deter Nehemiah from doing what God had sent him to do and instead of running; he stood his ground and prayed to God for justice to be done.  Nehemiah did not pray for protection because he knew that he was doing God’s will and that whatever may befall him, it was in God’s hands.

There is an inevitable tension that often comes into play when a husband or wife believes they are right and are asked to compromise their convictions by their spouse in order to reestablish peace in the relationship.  Unlike the account in Nehemiah, one or both parties usually are not trying to trick the other into accepting a compromise that will do them harm, at least not physical harm.  But there are at least two things in play, for sure.  The first is that both believe they are right and the second is that, as it stands, one will be the winner and the other the loser. A real compromise, however, is for the purpose of accomplishing a greater good and if successful, there will be no losers.  Both sides win because the greater good has been served.

Probably the most common examples of such compromises are when a couple decides that divorce is their best option.  Agreements on property and children are reached, both out a sense of fairness and for the greater good, namely the children.  In this example, there is nothing good that is accomplished in God’s eyes, but it is considered making the best of a bad situation.  But as every married couple knows, most disagreements are not so black and white that either party can honestly say that they are right and their spouse is wrong.  These are the situations that compromise can be a valuable tool in seeking peace.  Both parties should eagerly try to be the first to make such an offer and the result can be very rewarding for both.

The more difficult situation is when one or both parties is trying to protect or covet a known sin, by promising to abandon it if the other party agrees to accept it for a brief period of time.  For example, many alcoholics say that, “I will stop drinking, but not until I can get beyond my bigger problem.”  It’s the old, “the devil makes me do it,” defense.  Another serious one is, “I’ll stop seeing her, but I have to be sensitive to her feelings and needs as well.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, but I promise I’ll cut it off as soon as I can.”  There is no such thing as compromise when it comes to sin, because it only leads in one direction, death and destruction. Now I know that these are extreme examples, or are they?

In Romans, chapter six, Paul uses an analogy to slavery when describing the “sin condition”. We were slaves to sin before coming to Christ and unable to do anything righteous in God’s eyes and that our sin, once revealed, will necessarily lead to our feeling ashamed. Paul finishes with two very strong statements, the first being, “Those things (sinful behavior) lead to death!”  The second is, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God brings eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our “wages” are what we have earned through our own efforts, so we are being fairly compensated.  When we accept Christ and His lordship, our paycheck is an eternity of peace and joy in the very presence of God.  All sin, no matter what its earthly consequences condemns us to death and by contrast, faith no matter how mature, if it is in Christ leads to eternal life.  If we choose to accept sin, if only for a time, and not stand by our convictions, then we should also expect to share in the shame that comes with it.

For this reason there can be no compromise with sin, no accommodation or a temporary turning a blind eye to a condition that is fatal.  If you love each other, you will love your husband of wife enough to tell them the truth and accept no less, not for your sake but for theirs.  Paul finishes by saying, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”  Romans 6:19-23  

Tool #288  Love your husband or wife enough not to compromise on those things that can only lead to their destruction.

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