What is better, to do what is right or to do what works? Do the ends justify the means? Can we compromise formal righteousness for a result that we think is clearly important?
Such questions have been important questions for years in the church. Many people, well-intentioned people, have led many churches to make decisions that turn their churches subtly away from Scripture for the sake of a good cause. They know that there are several things that God intends for the church to accomplish. And, if they misunderstand God’s top priority, they will compromise in one area for the accomplishment of another.
The rise of modern theological liberalism was tied to a desire to see the church avoid a decline. As the world became more skeptical of the miraculous and more enthralled by scientific explanations for all things, teachers began to downplay the miraculous so as not to turn off the modern thinker. Eventually, such pastors and professors began to deny the authority and accuracy of Scripture so as to attempt to keep the church from declining numerically.
Sometimes we are tempted to compromise for a good cause. Typically, one cause for which Christians are willing to compromise is evangelism. Evangelism, of course, is God’s command for the church. We are to go and make disciples of all nations. We are to see people saved, baptized, and taught to obey the commands of the Lord. But when we find that other issues like doctrine impair our ability to share the gospel with a world that hates biblical doctrine, we can be tempted to hide or even ignore that doctrine for the sake of sharing Jesus. Or we can be tempted to shift the focus of the church away from the glory of God and the word of God to focus our resources more firmly on the spreading of the faith.
In modern times, other categories are arising that might lead us to compromise. The desire to see racism eradicated has led some to stop thinking about people in biblical categories. The desire to show love and kindness toward hurting people has led some believers to embrace falsehoods regarding gender and sexuality. The desire to see the poor protected has led some to turn their backs on biblical definitions of justice. And many a cause has led to Christians in spoken word and writing to compromise in the biblical area of speaking the truth in love.
But, dear friends, we must be a people of solid doctrine and conviction first. God does all he does for the sake of his glory. God’s word is our only infallible revelation of himself and his ways. God has not given us permission to ignore his doctrine for the sake of growing a broader social presence or community influence. God has never called the church to compromise the purity of the worship service to make it more appealing to those who do not know Jesus. While it is wonderful for the church to be kind to our friends and neighbors, it is glorious for us to share the gospel, and it is gracious for us to be sure that we explain things in the worship service so that lost guests can understand what is going on without feeling left out, the church exists for the glory of God in all things. We must obey his word. We must prioritize the honor of God in worship. We must prioritize the clear preaching of and obedience to the Scriptures in all areas of our church life.
I thought of all this while reading through 2 Chronicles. King Ahaz became a pragmatist. He looked at his experience as a king, and he chose to do that which worked. He had seen success for one group and failure for another. And Ahaz chose to do what he saw was successful. And his choice led to the wrath of God.
2 Chronicles 28:22-25 – 22 In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the Lord, the God of his fathers.
Ahaz thought that the false gods of Syria had defeated the Lord. So, Ahaz decided to go with what worked. He began to worship those false gods. He broke down items in the temple and shut the doors. Ahaz led people away from the worship of the one true God in order to follow what he thought would be a path for national thriving. But Ahaz was unaware that the success of the Syrians over Israel was caused by the very compromise he was making.
Christians, may we not be like Ahaz. We must obey the word of God fully. That means that we make the glory of God our number one priority. WE make worship of God, genuine and biblical worship of God, what we do on Sunday. Yes, we go and share the gospel with our neighbors and friends and families. Yes, we care for the needy. Yes, we seek to see biblical justice done in our world. But we seek to obey God in all things. WE must choose from the beginning not to allow ourselves to compromise the word of God for what we think might work in a particular situation to bring about a desired conclusion. WE must trust the Lord to grow his church as the people of God remain stuck like glue to the holy word of God for the glory of Almighty God.