Compromise in the Christian life and in the Christian church is simply departure from the clearly revealed demands of God’s word. The demands of God’s word for holiness, separation from the world, separation on a corporate and ecclesiastical level from apostasy and disobedient brethren, etc. are set aside by compromise. Sadly, this process of setting aside is often made-over as a spirit of loving concern to reach out to others. That which is evil and deadly is therefore often masqueraded as good and desirable.
Yet there is a savage cruelty about compromise. Departure from the standards of God’s word causes division (Romans 16:17); tears apart close friendships and causes untold suffering to the individual believer or the organisation that desires to be true to the call of Christ.
The implications of the Saviour’s words
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27 AV)
These are words that are very pertinent to this issue. The Saviour speaks of taking up the cross and following Him. As in His case, so in the disciple’s case, bearing the cross will indicate a voluntary desire to please God at any price. However, we must never forget that the cross was also imposed upon the Saviour by the opposition of His enemies. The pain and anguish of body and soul that He suffered on the cross was in one sense caused directly by the refusal of men to obey God’s revealed word. Those who desire to follow Him faithfully will discover that they are opposed in that desire by friends and family as detailed in this passage. The consequence of determining to be faithful to Christ will mean that those friendships have to be broken and the pain of that is symbolized in the cross that has to be carried. The anguish of heart and soul that severing such friendships involves, is directly caused by the opposition of those people to a faithful pursuit of Christ.
Close relationships and dear friendships are torn apart by compromise. The Saviour speaks of father, mother, wife and children being involved. Of course He also includes the working of the disobedient desires of the flesh within which also has to be crucified. These relations are not put second to obeying Christ without deep anguish of soul on the part of the disciple who desires to follow Christ faithfully. Resisting the pressure to compromise on obeying the clearly revealed commands of Christ involves the pain of crucifixion. In a remarkable sense, those whose agenda is one of compromise and disobedience, actually occasion this pain to the faithful disciple.
Compromise introduces the destructive influences of Satan and sin among God’s people.
Often under the guise of godliness and Christian love, compromise opens a door to the ruinous effects of sin. We can see this in various Biblical pictures associated with the work of false teachers in the church.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing is perhaps the most familiar. The blood-thirsty, cunning cruelty of the wolf lies beneath the masquerade of a servant of Christ. In the name of serving the Saviour disobedience and a sinful agenda is adopted and promoted. But all this leads to the destruction of the flock of God as certainly as the wolf destroys sheep. The Saviour describes the work of such men in the church as thieves and robbers (John 10:8). Elsewhere in the Scriptures the work of such men are described in similar terms. Cp Ezekiel 13:18, 20, Micah 3:1-3, Zephaniah 3:3. Compromise with sin opens the door to such blood-thirsty predators of the sheep.
God’s servants are called to serve as watchmen in the Church of Christ and warn against sin and the encroachments of the enemies of God. When they fail in this duty they become complicit to some degree in the advance of the enemy’s attempts to destroy the work of God. This is compromise at work! The horrors of a city being overrun and plundered result from the failure of the watchman. This ought to alarm every true servant of God to vigilance and to blow the trumpet of alarm in the ears of God’s people.
The Bible gives multiple pictures of Satan’s destructive nature and his agenda for the people of God. He is the savage lion prowling to devour (1 Peter 5:8); he is the biting serpent that lurks unseen by the unwary; he is the blood-stained dragon waiting to devour (Revelation 12:3-4). Allowing his entrance to any degree into the Church is fatal to its safety and health.
Yet, like Peter (Matthew 16:23) many a servant of God is persuaded that there is a better, easier course to follow and so end up doing the work of Satan – the ‘adversary’ of the Church. Peter’s folly on this occasion was to propose a kinder alternative to the cross. His words to Christ literally were “Be kind to thyself”. The proposal of a less rigourous path of Christian service adopts the same spirit. A diminution of the Biblical standards because they are deemed too severe, too harsh is to follow in Peter’s steps and to warrant the same rebuke from Christ. Unwittingly Peter had introduced the cruel work of the devil among the sheep by his proposal.
To ignore the savage implications of departure from God’s word and the accommodation of compromise, is to act in the cruelest and most hard-hearted fashion. There are many who adopt the attitude of the ostrich about these matters and hide their heads in the sand. The ostrich “… leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though [they were] not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;” (Job 39:14-16 AV)