The ability to compromise is a lost art. We have become so diverse in our thinking, so polarized in our viewpoints and so set in our conclusions as unequivocally right, that the mere idea of compromise is in some cases viewed as a repulsive evil. Now look – there are times when compromise should be off the table. There are times when that which is right and sound should not be approached with the idea of watering it down for the sake of making someone or some group or some sect happy. But when? When do we stand as an immovable force and when do we bend and acquiesce to include the preferences of others? Fortunately for us, these very issues existed in biblical times so we actually do have a pretty clear set of guidelines to follow. Is compromise good? Yes! Is compromise bad? Yes! Let’s figure this out!
We often make simple assumptions about those who lived in biblical times. For instance, when we think of New Testament Christians we think – Jesus’ influence of love and kindness was clear and they all loved, cared for and respected each other. What a great and harmonious environment to live in! Now, they did love each other,but what we don’t often realize is that in many cases and for many years, mutual respect was sometimes lacking - and tenuous at best - and had to be learned. It was a hard and arduous lesson to say the least! We might wonder why that would be – after all, the Apostles were there and they would certainly be able to guide everyone to the higher ground of mutual respect in Christ, right? Right?
Yes and no. The unconsidered factors here are culture and human weakness. For some reason, we don’t like to think of the founders of Christianity as having to wrestle with these things as we do, but the happy truth is they did. They wrestled hard with different cultures colliding under the grace of Christianity and had to do some pretty bold things to make it all work. To me, as I mentioned, this is a happy truth, for their struggles have become our guidelines. One of those bold things they struggled with was being willing to compromise. Here again, we don’t often think of compromise as a bold move; rather, we think of it as a wimpy and spineless one. In many circumstances, compromise is simply an exit door for the weak, but in other cases such as with the Apostles and elders in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, compromise is a bold and defining decision that can be a primary tool in building a firm and lasting legacy.
What the Apostles and elders did in their meeting recorded in Acts was to absorb the tensions of two opposite sides of a major issue, listen, consider discuss and find a mutually-acceptable path to move forward. How did they do that? Check out our January 9, 2017 podcast, “How Much Should Christians Compromise?” and follow along with us as we lay out the steps they took, how they took them and how we can do the same thing. Compromise, in the right place and circumstance, is a bold and powerful answer!
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