Monday, May 13, 2013

Compromise for the Sake of Peace?

Today is the first day of our nineteenth week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:
  •  1 Sam 26-27; 1 Chr 8; Acts 18
  •  1 Sam 28-29; 1 Chr 9; Acts 19
  •  1 Sam 30-31; 1 Chr 10; Acts 20
  •  2 Sam 1-2; 1 Chr 11; Act 21; Ps 96, 106
  •  2 Sam 3-5; 1 Chr 12; Acts 22; Ps 122
At one time or another, everyone is faced with the decision, whether or not they should compromise for the sake of peace.  It's one thing to compromise your desires for the sake of peace--for example, if one person wants to eat at Micky D's and the other person wants to chow down at KFC.  But when it comes to compromising your principles for the sake of peace, the Christian should never give in.

Romans 12:18 (ESV) says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."  This is a good goal to strive for.  But peace doesn't always depend on you.  Peace can depend on the other person, as well.  Or, it can depend on your capitulation with the world's system, which is not an option for the Christian.  Compromising your Christian principles for the sake of peace isn't even a consideration.  

In our 1 Samuel 27, David decides to give up his principles, for the sake of peace.  Here is the passage, in its entirety, from the English Standard Version:

Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal's widow. And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?”So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day.And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.

Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish.10 When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.” 11 And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.’” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”

For the sake of getting a time of respite from Saul's persecution, David turns to his enemy the Philistines for refuge.  It isn't the first time that he has done this.  In 1 Samuel 21:10-15 he went to Gath (Goliath's own hometown) for support.  At that time, King Achish didn't trust the Hebrew hero David--and why would he? Goliath had been his own champion.  So, to save his skin, David had feigned insanity, raving like a lunatic and letting the spittle run down on his beard.  Out of pity for the insane, Achish had left David alone and even given him hospitality.  Now, David goes to Achish a second time, having gained some confidence and no longer feeling the need to pretend.  Instead of presenting himself as someone to be pitied, David depicts himself as the next champion of the Philistines.  He raids distant countries that are enemies to the Philistines and brings back the spoil, claiming to have raided his own people.  Thus, he maintains his own sense of loyalty to the Israelites while at the same time convincing the Philistines that he is in their employ.  In this way, David spends a year and four months hiding out from Saul.  But consider the irony here: David retreats from Saul, who pursues him even though David had never wronged the king.  Now, in a bid for his own rest and peace, David engages in violent pursuit of people who have never done him wrong.  He has not only compromised his own ideas, but now his principles have gone down the tubes. 

Each of us must make our own choices as to right and wrong.  Sometimes compromise seems the only way.  To compromise your ideas is one thing, but to compromise your ideals is another.  

One pastor I know will attend interfaith meetings and join in prayer with Muslims and Sikhs.  Yet to him, Mormons are anathema.  (Personally, I wouldn't pray with any of these three groups).  Another minister I know can join in prayer with other Protestants, but Catholic prayers repulse him.  Each one must make their own decisions, but we must never compromise what we believe, for the sake of peace.

Recently, I attended a National Day of Prayer service that was led by one of our local Protestant pastors.  As he was handing out prayer request cards, one lady asked him, "Is it all right if we entreat or Blessed Virgin?"  The pastor said it was fine--after all, the National Day of Prayer is for everybody, not just for people who believe the way he does.  As the prayers went around the circle, our Catholic sister began to pray.  She addressed the Blessed Virgin, and I watched as this Protestant pastor stood respectfully with his hands folded.  Because I know him, I also know that he was not joining in her prayer, but was simply being gracious.  Another Protestant clergyman whom I know very well was present.  Likewise, he disagrees with the veneration of the saints.  When she began to pray to Mary, he felt that he had to show his disapproval (or, rather, non-participation) by kneeling.  Because I know him, I also know that he wasn't bowing before Mary but bowing before Almighty God and probably praying for Catholics everywhere.

Another time, one of the folks at church who was working on a college degree called me up to ask for some help.  "I'm taking a world religions class," she said.  "I'm required to attend a worship service of a religion that's not my own, and I'm a bit nervous about it.  Can you go with me?"  I agreed, and soon found out that I was expected to make the arrangements as well.  I contacted a local synagogue and left a message for the rabbi, explaining the situation and asking if we could attend a service soon.  But he never returned my phone call.  So I contacted the local zendo and asked the roshi if we could join them for zen meditation.  For the sake of full disclosure, I told him that I was a Baptist pastor that that I was helping a parishioner of mine in a requirement for her class.  He agreed, and we attended.  Interestingly, that evening the only people who showed up were the roshi, my parishioner, and myself.  We did seated meditation together, and then had a wonderful conversation afterwards.  My parishioner interviewed the roshi, and got a lot of answers for a paper she was working on.  Some Christians would say, "How could you go into a buddhist meeting hall and meditate with a zen master?  Doesn't that violate your principles as a Christian?"  My answer is that while the roshi was sitting zazen, I was meditating on God's Word.  He never invoked any god (Zen buddhists don't believe in gods, anyway), but while I was sitting with him, I was praying to Jesus for his soul.  

What's the point?  Simply that each one of us must make a choice about whether to compromise, how far to compromise, and just where our compromise must end.  It's one thing to sacrifice your ideas, but you must never give up your ideals, just to live in peace with others.  2 Corinthians 6 (ESV) says:

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 

So, where do you draw the line?  I hope that you do draw lines--and that they will be drawn with faith as your marker.  "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."  But don't let peace be your ultimate goal.  Let Truth be your goal.  Always walk in the integrity of what you believe.  

In Philippians 4 (ESV), Paul writes:

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

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