“Politics is the art of compromise.” Thus politicians and pundits advise that the way things get done is through compromise. No one gets everything they want, but both sides get something. Compromise is necessary and good for the country, it is said.
Perhaps, but not always. The founding fathers compromised on the issue of slavery so that they might forge a nation. Later the Missouri Compromise was added to the stew already bubbling. But soon thereafter the mess boiled over, and the nation suffered through a terrible Civil War. The slaves were finally freed, but the ramifications of those earlier compromises are still felt today.
Moses was one who did not compromise. Sent by God to deliver the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt, Moses had one God-given demand for Pharaoh: “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me” (Exodus 8:20).
But Pharaoh acted like a hardboiled, Machiavellian politician. The Egyptian prince refused Moses’ demand, but three times offered a compromise: “Go sacrifice to your God, but do it here in Egypt, in the desert. And make sure you all come back.” Moses responded, “No! Get ready for a pestilence.” Pharaoh then said, “Go, but only the men; women and children have to stay behind.” Moses answered, “No! Enjoy the locusts.” Pharaoh negotiated, “Go; men, women and children, but your flocks and herds have to remain.” Moses again said, “No compromise! We demand total freedom.” (Read Exodus 7-10 for the full account.)
If Moses had compromised on any point, he would have disobeyed God, giving Pharaoh a continuing hold on the people, nullifying their freedom. Moses was a faithful uncompromiser, for the deliverance of his people and the glory of God.
Centuries later the heavenly Father sent His own Son to deliver the world of sinners from their slavery to sin, death and the power of the devil. Like Moses, Jesus also was repeatedly tempted to compromise. His own relatives wanted Him to slow down in His ministry. A close disciple forbade Him to go the way of the cross. His enemies insisted that He modify His message to fit their traditions. Satan tempted Him with repeated compromises and outright abdication. Even in Gethsemane He did not yield. Jesus was truly the Great Uncompromiser—never yielding an inch or a single word from His Father’s will in working out our blessed redemption and atonement.
Daniel, Peter, John, Paul, Athanasius, and many unnamed martyrs are known for their uncompromising faith and defense of God’s Word. Martin Luther’s “Here I stand” still rings mightily in our ears, as well as his refusal to budge a verb from Jesus’ words, “This is My body” (Matthew 26:26). As a result, we have been bequeathed the pure Gospel of salvation by grace alone, the central doctrine of justification by faith alone and the true understanding of the Holy Sacraments.
Today we are being tempted to compromise on many fronts, including creation, abortion, marriage, inspiration of Scripture, and fellowship. The prince of this world would assure us we can have our freedom—only not completely. The world tells us to get lost, but to be sure to come back. The wise of this age tell us we have to give a little to get along. The ecumenists encourage a church where we all agree to disagree on God’s Word. But all this can lead to is freedom lost.
Jesus, the Great Uncompromiser, instructed us “to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 20), and said that true and faithful disciples “abide in My Word” (John 8:31). St. Paul challenged, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Galatians 5:1). Can it be any clearer? No Compromise!
Perhaps in heaven there will be a greatly expanded Book of Fame, even as Hebrews 11 gives us a listing of the ancient heroes of faith. Perhaps we will meet the owners of purple hearts, silver stars, medals of honor—won in the fight of faith. Perhaps also we will see a long, golden wall, simply called “The Hall of the Steadfast Uncompromisers.” We pray that our names will there be engraved.
David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.