The phone rings.
Disciple 1: “Hello”
Disciple 2: “Hey man. Did you hear about _________?”
D1: “No. I’ve not heard anything.”
D2: “He changed his position on __________.”
D1: “Really? I hadn’t heard that.”
D2: “Yeah. It’s just sad to see another friend walk away from the faith.”
D2: “I mean, I just never thought he’d be one to compromise…”
D1: “Have you spoken with him about it?”
D1: “Perhaps that’d be good to do before telling others what you’ve only heard, but have not verified.”
D2: “… yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”
Later the phone rings again.
D2: “Well, it’s settled. He is indeed a compromiser. I heard it from his own lips. He’s changed his position altogether.”
D1: “Are you sure it’s a matter of compromise?”
D2: “Absolutely! He doesn’t believe like us anymore! He’s going liberal. He’s choosing not to stick by the stuff. He’s not willing to simply trust Scripture.”
D1: “He told you this?”
D2: “Well, no, but he’s changed his position. He made that clear. Why else would he do that? It’s just shocking because he seemed like such a sincere and solid guy.”
D1: “Perhaps because he seemed like such a sincere and solid guy, you should give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to explain why, if he feels so inclined, instead of just assuming that it’s a matter of compromise or that he is walking away from truth or the faith. After all, he is still your brother. Isn’t he?”
D2: “… yeah. You’re probably right.”
The next day, the phone rings again.
D2: “Well, he says that he’s convinced we have it wrong in this area. He’s studied it out and feels compelled to change to align more with what he understands to be true.”
D1: “That hardly sounds like compromise. In fact, whether you agree with his position or not, it sounds like just the opposite.”
D2: “Yeah, but he’s wrong!”
D1: “You’re certain of that?”
D2: “Of course!”
D1: “So, you listened to what he had to say with an open mind, intent on understanding? You were open to the possibility that he might be right, and were willing to weigh his position based purely on the evidence presented by him and any other sincere follow-up work you were able to do in your pursuit of truth? You weren’t just listening to make a case against him? You gave his position the same honest evaluation you gave yours before embracing it?”
D2: “Well, no…”
D1: “Have you ever even approached your currently firmly held and passionately defended positions with the same kind of skepticism and scrutiny you are subjecting him and his to?”
D2: “No. Not really…”
D1: “Perhaps you should. Otherwise, they aren’t really your positions, it’s not really your faith, and you can’t really claim loyalty to Jesus and truth.”
D2: “How dare you suggest that I’m not loyal to Jesus?!”
D1: “Did you take what you’ve been taught and filter it through His Word with the help of His Spirit to see if it was so, or did it come from someone you respected and trusted and someone you considered to be an authority on the matter, and so, because it lined up with what you were already familiar with and seemed to make sense to you based on the way it, and the opposing view (as if there were just one), were presented, did you simply embrace it and move on?”
D1: “The reality is, the compromiser and the trouble maker aren’t the ones who change based on what they truly believe as a result of honestly pursuing truth, even if they are wrong. The compromiser and the trouble maker are the ones who stick with and perpetuate something even though, deep down, they aren’t convinced or have serious doubts because they don’t want to make waves or challenge the status quo or face the backlash or pressures from their peers.”
Please understand. I am not suggesting that anyone who has ever accused anyone else of being a compromiser has never bothered to talk with the accused, nor am I suggesting that they have never fully considered their own beliefs or the beliefs of those they have charged. Neither am I suggesting that everyone that has changed their position on something has done so as a result of honestly seeking truth. So, don’t let those thoughts distract you from the fact that too many who have cried compromiser are just like what I have described, and many who have changed their positions are as well.
The fact is too many believers are often far too committed to beliefs that Jesus has never led them to rather than being satisfied with simply being committed to Jesus alone, and thus believers are divided unnecessarily. I know that people will push back saying that loyalty to truth divides. I don’t dispute that. In fact, I agree, but let it be truth… Don’t divide over the commandments of men or the opinions of men. Loyalty to truth and to Jesus has to be good enough. It has to be good enough for us and we have to be okay with it being good enough for others, and out of loyalty to Christ, show love and respect.
What’s disappointing about this dialogue? It’s disappointing because it’s necessary, and the most disappointing part of all is that too often, it merely results in accusations of either defending compromisers, or becoming one. It rarely results in mutual respect and unity despite differences.