The God who compromises

Last year I wrote a number of posts about the plain fact that not everything Biblical is Christian. (You can use the 21st entry to find all the previous ones). One of the aspects of this rejection of biblicism is Jesus' overruling of Mosaic laws in favor of merciful, compassionate and even graceful responses; instead of Mosaic "eye for an eye" view of justice, a way of non-violent turning of the cheek, instead of execution of adulteresses caught in the act, a refocus on self-judgment, instead of his intended mission, an enlarged one. It's this latter example of compromise with compassion I've been thinking about today.

Matthew the tax collector, a despised profession among his fellow Jewish citizens living in occupied Palestine, who followed the merciful Jesus tells a curious anecdote.

Matthew 15:21-28 The Voice
Jesus left that place and withdrew to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman—a non-Jew—came to Him. 
Canaanite Woman (wailing): Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is possessed by a demon. Have mercy, Lord! 
Jesus said nothing. And the woman continued to wail. His disciples came to Him. 
Disciples: Do something—she keeps crying after us! 
Jesus:  I was sent here only to gather up the lost sheep of Israel. 
The woman came up to Jesus and knelt before Him. 
Canaanite Woman: Lord, help me! 
Jesus: It is not right to waste the children’s bread by feeding dogs. 
Canaanite Woman: But, Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that fall by the table as their master is eating.
Jesus—whose ancestors included Ruth and Rahab—spoke with kindness and insight.  
Jesus: Woman, you have great faith. And your request is done. 
And her daughter was healed, right then and from then on. 

There are so many topics to cover here, but I want to focus on one. Jesus will compromise when it comes to mercy. This scene hearkens back to Abraham's negotiation with God on his way down to judge Sodom and Gomorrah.

It seems to me compromise is a mark of holiness; not compromise in general, but compromise in particular when more mercy and compassion are available. Within the early church a compromise was found to fully include Gentiles who did not follow Mosaic traditions. Like the Canaanite woman in this story, they had great faith and exhibited the radical lifestyle of love. Instead of walling them out completely or forcing them to humiliate themselves physically to conform to Jewish cultural norms, the church exhibited its own radical lifestyle of love and chose to compromise with inclusiveness. The church did not compromise with those who were pretenders or money grubbers or exploiters of the poor and ignorant.

I live in a country that has a difficult time with compromise. It's seen as a weakness. When judges exhibited mercy in their courtrooms, legislators took away the freedom to compromise by making laws imposing minimum sentences or three crimes and a life sentence laws. The perceived weakness of the judges was met with "no compromises" laws which have resulted in great abuses and miscarriages of justice. For six years the national legislature has refused to compromise with a president it despises, even when compromises will help so many citizens, because compromise is viewed as weakness by the electorate.

My country's inability to compromise once resulted in a Civil War that cost a million lives. I see my country in a similar position 150 years later. "All or nothing" is the mindset.

But Jesus, supposedly the model for my Christian nation, compromised. He was also considered weak and a threat to society. When violent people perceive weakness, they attack. People like to assert their dominance when they feel insecure. Jesus felt secure in his humility. Does the church today?

After the election an exasperated co-worker asked a friend of mine, "What do you evangelicals want?" The implied question is "How much dominance do you guys want? Since you can't humbly persuade people to your theology do you need laws outlawing other religions or the freedoms of other religious adherents? How can you say out of one side of your mouth you are about love and out of the other choose a political leader who has a record of lying, cheating, exploiting, and money grubbing?"

The church that compromises to the benefit of the marginalized is the church that looks Christlike, and deserves the moniker "Christ-ian". The church that practices "true religion" as Jesus' brother James writes, James 1:27- 2:7
Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world.
My brothers and sisters, I know you’ve heard this before, but stop playing favorites! Do not try to blend the genuine faith of our glorious Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, with your silly pretentiousness. 2 If an affluent gentleman enters your gathering wearing the finest clothes and priceless jewelry, don’t trip over each other trying to welcome him. And if a penniless bum crawls in with his shabby clothes and a stench fills the room, don’t look away or pretend you didn’t notice—offer him a seat up front, next to you. 3-4 If you tell the wealthy man, “Come sit by me; there’s plenty of room,” but tell the vagrant, “Oh, these seats are saved. Go over there,” then you’ll be judging God’s children out of evil motives.
5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen: God has picked the poor of this world to become unfathomably rich in faith and ultimately to inherit the Kingdom, which He has pledged to those who love Him. 6 By favoring the rich, you have mocked the poor. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the rich who step on you while climbing the ladder of success? And isn’t it the rich who take advantage of you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones mocking the noble name of our God, the One calling us?
 I don't even know how to begin to provide commentary on James. It is such succinct writing. A philosophy that believes, contrary to evidence, that enabling the rich to get richer will eventually trickle down some pennies to the poor, is not a philosophy James agrees with. If America was great in the 1950's, the rich paid up to 3/4 of their income in taxes. With all that money in the government's coffers services were plentiful, infrastructure was great, wages were sufficient, and the middle class swelled. But it takes legislators willing to compromise to restore this historical aspect of America. An uncompromising legislature and citizenry may revisit the historical aspect of American of 150 years ago.

May we all follow the example of the God who compromises.


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