Compromising Positions

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, 2 Samuel 1:1-16, Acts 15:22-35, Mark 6:1-13


The word “compromise” has multiple meanings. In one sense it refers to the give-and-take between parties negotiating an agreement. For example, if a couple planning a wedding disagrees on whether the event should be held at the beach or in a hall, they may compromise on an outdoor venue which faces the beach but provides shelter from inclement weather.

In another sense, compromise means to weaken or undermine someone’s strength or credibility. If a pharmaceutical researcher fails to disclose his study is funded by the company who wants to take the drug to market, we might say his conclusions about drug safety are compromised.

We may be willing to compromise. We are almost never willing to be compromised.

In the first case, active participants seek accord. In the second, the consequences are one-sided so it may seem like the comprosmised party is a passive participant, but very often they are a victim of their own misdeeds.

As more and more gentiles converted to Christianity, Jewish disciples didn’t agree on whether these believers needed to follow Jewish customs, particularly circumcision. In the end, they officially agreed that the rules for gentile believers were “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Why was circumcision taken off the table? Because Peter reminded the Jewish Christians that they were saved by Christ’s grace since they had failed to bear the yoke of the very law they were trying to impose.

Having compromised themselves, the disciples learned to compromise.

We don’t need to impose our rules on the world around us. Let’s not blame Christ for our compulsion to condemn and shame others we call sinful.  Didn’t Jesus say “judge not lest ye be judged?” Your sins and mine helped pave the road to the cross just as much as anyone else’s … and Jesus died for all of us.

Yet overlooking the broken state of the world does it a disservice. Perhaps the compromise between ignoring sin and condemning people is sharing with them the good news that Christ loves us all.


Additional Reading:
For thoughts on today’s passage from Mark, see A Burden Shared, Faith in the Familiar, and Expect the Unexpected.

Comfort: Compromising is not the same as selling out.

Challenge: In the newspaper, look for stories that result from people’s unwillingness to compromise. How could they be handled differently?

Prayer: O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Amen. (Psalm 56:2)

Discussion: When have you felt good about a compromise? When have you felt bad?

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