"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Awash in the Sea of Compromise

At one point in the film Anatomy of a Murder, a lawyer expresses disdain for the idea of attempting to fabricate a viable but artificial excuse for a murder, even though this would be the muderer's only chance for escape from a murder conviction.  A friend of his replies quite simply, "Maybe you're too pure, Paul. Too pure for the natural impurities of the law."  In other words, one must not scruple to operate with a tinge of immorality while in an immoral system; so doing can bring about desirable, or even moral, results.

This excites no astonishment in us; the shelves of literature and cinema are saturated with this very idea:  Robin Hood's clever thievery feed the grateful poor, and Harry Callahan kills the Scorpio Killer, then wordlessly discards his badge.  Sadly, however, this travels deep beyond fiction into the very fabric of our world, the very stuff of human life, and perhaps the greatest, most tragic example of this is the final hours of Jesus before the crucifixion.

The Pharisees tried the Savior with a stunning and flagrant disregard for their own laws:  demanding that He testify against Himself, trying Him at night, trying Him before Annas, who was not the high priest that year, trying Him without the Sanhedrin present, even striking Him during His questioning (John 18:12-24).  This they did because they judged it necessary to stop the Christ by any means possible.

Later, Pontius Pilate, who never gave the slightest inkling that he supposed the Savior guilty of anything, nevertheless ordered Him to be unspeakably torn and mutilated.  He so decreed in hopes that the Pharisees would be quieted and ultimately relent in their desire to kill Him (John 19:1-4).  Were I an acquaitance of Pilate, I would ask him to not do me any favors. 

But a moment later, the chief priests would achieve the very apogee of their ecstatic blasphemy in this austere declaration:  "We have no king but Caesar." (John 19:15b) In other words, "Forget this Man, Pilate - He is not our king.  Caesar, the very one whom we hate and chafe against and seek to throw off, is our only king.  Forget even the God of Israel - we are under no rule but that of Caesar.  So do we deny the very God we claim to serve, if only it means we may be rid of this troublesome carpenter whose claims we cannot dispute."  And in doing so, they spoke far better than they knew about their own allegiances.

This is the world of sin, my friends.  Without the regenerating work and righteous wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we possess no spiritual equilibrium - we suppose that we can usher in good ends through unsavory means.  We tilt a quart of motor oil to our lips and expect it will turn to honey in our stomachs.  It is not a matter of desiring this sort of compromise, but rather, of supposing that it is the only recourse available to us. 

Praise be to God, though, that this sort of moral compromise is utterly foreign to the Christian world.  It is never called for.  We may be fraught with confusion or reluctance in our pursuit of righteousness, but we will never find ourselves needing to harness sinful means to accomplish a righteous purpose.  So Peter, in speaking to those enslaved to unkind masters, can simply tell them to bear up submissively and righteously under such treatment (1 Peter 2:18-20).  This answer from Peter is not out of touch or obtuse; he simply declares that righteousness and endurance are that which please the Lord.  There is no circumstance in which the temporal consequences of righteousness render the relinquishment of that righteousness a valid option.

Furthermore,God will never lead us into a situation demanding moral compromise.  His righteousness, His omniscience, His sovereignty, and His omnisapience (complete wisdom) all stand as insurmountable fortresses that oppose the incursions of moral compromise:  there will never come a need for us to equivocate, in either word or deed, on our dearly-held, divinely-imparted righteous principles.  More directly, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." (James 1:13)

There are certainly times when we can feel as though compromise could help the Kingdom - perhaps to grow God's church or to establish a relational context with the unsaved.  These feelings are not from the Lord.  When Christians sinfully forgo a righteous act in hopes of accomplishing a righteous end, they have forgotten that the righteous act they spurned was itself the righteous end that God desired!  Our righteous response to our circumstances is the Lord's prescription, and it is His prerogative to work through our righteous deeds as He sees fit.  Consider Jeremiah and Paul, for instance - both godly men, obedient and righteous, and yet the results of their ministries were dramatically different. 

Our righteous deeds, then, become as humble offerings to the Lord, for His own use.  To deny this by sinful compromise is to judge that the Lord does not have His own best interests at heart.  Furthermore, it assumes that a situation can have but one outcome if a righteous prescription is followed - such a mockery to God in His sovereignty!  In a word, it demonstrates our opinion of God as a weak, foolish, very human sort of deity.  May these things never be.

Instead, we joyfully hold to the truth that God sees all ends and has ordained all ends, and we may therefore rest in our resolve to tenaciously pursue His righteous principles at every turn. Moral compromise is neither a requirement nor an option for the saint whose eyes are fixed on Christ, no matter what the circumstance.  Praise Him for this beautifully rigid certainty!


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